Despite the return of former coach and SBL All Star Ty Harrelson for the first time since 2015, the Willetton Tigers were in no mood to accommodate the home team, winning a tough Friday night contest 99-92 at the Eaton Recreation Centre.
Facing the 2017 pace setters, the home team engaged in an early battle for advantage as both teams started with enthusiasm and endeavour with contrasting styles, South West with their fast-paced offense pitted against the Tigers half court precision.
The Slammers were a constant threat on the offensive boards but it was Jay Bowie’s early outside presence, along with Ray Turner’s work inside that had the visitors holding a slim 26-22 advantage.
The second quarter saw both teams apply several changes in defensive strategies, but it was the same protagonists at work with Voelkel and Nichols going head to head with Turner and Bowie on the scoresheets. The home team kept with their high octane offense and working off isolations with Voelkel and Nichols in the half court in a bid to push their scoring. However, it was the former that proved most effective as Charles Nix’s transition offense continued to return dividends. Despite having big man Clive Weeden sitting the majority of the second quarter on three fouls, the Slammers held a 50-46 half-time lead. The home team’s lead aided by their 54% field goal percentage and an amazing 2 turnovers for the half.
The Tigers, who were outscored 28-20 in the second quarter, were unable to capitalise on their size advantage as South West’s collapsing zone took away interior space the Willetton bigs needed.
The third quarter saw the South West put Weeden back to work early and the big man responded, scoring the first 5 points of the second half. Not to be outdone, Willetton counterpart Ray Turner returned serve, reeling off 6 consecutive points inside, including two dunks in quick succession.
The home fans found reason to be irate when a fourth foul was assessed to Weeden half way through the third. What looked like a late call again saw the centre rooted to the bench and the Slammers playing small ball with Voelkel, Puot, Lay, Harrelson and Nichols on court. The combination returned to zone in a bid to clog the inside and force perimeter jumpshots from the Tigers. The home team held their own defensively and at the close of the third, were only down 68-70.
Heading into the last quarter, the wait for Weeden wasn’t long with the Slammers centre back into the action with 9 minutes remaining and the Tigers still holding a two-point advantage.
Both teams traded baskets as the home team continued to challenge the visitors to make perimeter shots. In turn, the Tigers instead looked to the high post and running their shooters off screens in their zone offense. The visitors found success with their approach including drawing a fifth and final personal foul on Weeden with 90 seconds to go and a 93-87 Tigers advantage.
Clock management by the visitors finished off the game and at the end of regulation it was a 99-92 away victory to the Willetton Tigers.
The Tigers import combo of Turner and Bowie amassed a combined total of 66 points and 18 rebounds between them and proved a constant threat all night.
South West imports Voelkel (25 pts, 17 rebs, 8 assts) and Nichols (20pts) were the main contributors for the home side, along with Michael Lay who added 17 pts off the bench.
Article by Vlad Alava
Photo by June Halliday