THE Joondalup Wolves celebrated the opening of their new HBF Arena complex with a Men’s SBL win over the Willetton Tigers on Saturday night while the defending champion Perth Redbacks won again along with the Rockingham Flames and Perry Lakes Hawks.
The 2018 Men’s SBL season got underway on Friday night with wins for the Perth Redbacks, Stirling Senators and East Perth Eagles respectively over the Lakeside Lightning, Rockingham Flames and Cockburn Cougars.
There were then four matches on Saturday night with the Joondalup Wolves winning on their new HBF Arena floor 92-86 over the Willetton Tigers while the Perth Redbacks with Mo Barrow and Jackson Hussey up against their old team, beating the Geraldton Buccaneers 100-81.
The Perry Lakes Hawks also won big, 121-93, against the Mandurah Magic while the Rockingham Flames defeated the Goldfields Giants 83-78.
HBF Arena was opened on Saturday night for its first official SBL game with a Wolves team who has made the last three Grand Final hosting a Willetton team who finished on top of the standings last year before losing in the semi finals.
That set the stage for a cracking first Men’s game in the new building and it didn’t disappoint. The teams combined for 59 points in the first quarter with the Wolves leading by three points by quarter-time.
The Wolves built up to a 16-point advantage by three quarter-time before holding on for the six-point victory.
Jalen Billups picked up where he left off last season at Cockburn in his first game for the Wolves putting up 25 points and six rebounds on 10/19 shooting.
Seb Salinas added 13 points for the Wolfpack, Brian Sullivan 12 points, Damian Matacz 11 and Chris Clausen 10.
Jay Bowie put in an encouraging start to his third season at Willetton with 28 points, five rebounds and three assists. Damien Scott added 19 points for the Tigers, Kyle Armour 12 and Badou Diagne 11 to go with 14 rebounds.
Perry Lakes opened its new season at Bendat Basketball Centre up against Mandurah, and the Hawks couldn’t have been more emphatic in their eventual 28-point victory capped off with a 36-point fourth quarter.
Lochlan Cummings enjoyed his first appearance for the Hawks having crossed from Cockburn with 24 points on 9/16 shooting from the field and 4/7 from long range.
Ryan Smith also put up 20 points from the bench for Perry Lakes on hitting 6/8 from long range. Ben Purser also had 18 points for the Hawks to go with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Tyler Monroe finished with 15 points and seven boards, Brian Carlwell 16 points, seven boards and four blocks, and Mitch Clarke 11 points.
It was a tough season-opener for Mandurah but Shaun Stewart did put up 29 points, five rebounds and four assists on 11/28 shooting with Jamal Shabazz contributing 23 points, five boards and three steals on 8/19 shooting.
Chudier Pal added 18 points and 10 rebounds with Sam Julitz finishing with 10 points and five boards.
Rockingham hosted its second game for the weekend at Mike Barnett Sports Complex and after a narrow defeat to Stirling on Friday, bounced back to beat the Giants by five points on Saturday.
New Flames import Josh Ritchart was the dominant presence in the win with 29 points and five rebounds on 10/18 shooting from the field, 3/8 from long range and 6/8 from the foul line.
Ryan Godfrey added 13 points for Rockingham and Luke Travers 12 to go with eight boards, five assists and two blocked shots.
New Giants imports Jeylyn Sharpe and Kyle Sovine put in impressive performances. Sharpe finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and three assists with Sovine having 27 points and nine boards.
The defending champion Redbacks were also hosting their second game of the opening round at Belmont Oasis, this time against the Buccaneers, meaning that former Geraldton pair Mo Barrow and Jackson Hussey came up against their old team for the first time.
With Shawn Redhage also back in the line-up joining Alex Loughton fresh off his outstanding Cairns Taipans NBL season, the Redbacks made it two-from-two for the weekend being in control throughout the game to come away with the 19-point win.
Loughton was tremendous for Perth with 28 points and five rebounds on 9/14 shooting from the floor and 3/5 from beyond the arc.
Redhage contributed 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists too for the Redbacks with Ben Smith adding 18 points, Barrow 14 (seven boards) and Hussey 10 along with nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic couldn’t have been happier with the way the opening weekend of the season went with the wins over Lakeside and Geraldton that didn’t come without their challenges.
“When you look at the weekend as a whole and you see that we came away with two wins, that was great. Tonight we wanted to make sure we focused on being a minimum of one per cent better than last night,” Lackovic said.
“Having Shawn back was good for us in terms of solidifying a few things in rotations and how we wanted to play against a completely different team. But that game on Friday was special for the club and for us with a full house here to be able to look at what we were able to achieve last year for the last time.
“We covered that and made sure after that banner went up that the focus was on the 40 minutes of Lakeside in front of us. We had to play them on their merits and last year didn’t matter anymore. Every new story starts with a new beginning and we wanted to establish that this weekend.
“It’s a new chapter where we have some new pieces in Mo and Huss joining us, and we didn’t have Huss last night for the whole second half because he had a migraine so we pulled him out and player welfare was priority No. 1.
“We were down him, Shawn wasn’t here, we had some foul trouble and didn’t have Mike or Lee against a Lakeside team pretty quick and small, so I was happy with how the boys adapted and made adjustments.”
The Buccs were not quite at full strength and are still awaiting the arrival of former Perth Wildcats player Earnest Ross, but showed some encouraging signs including from their new two new imports.
Gokul Natesan ran the point and looks an exciting prospect finishing with 34 points, five rebounds and four assists on 11/22 shooting despite going 2/10 from deep. Colter Lasher finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
Marcus Alipate also had 12 points, four rebounds and four assists for Geraldton
Buccs coach Ray Evans took some heart out of the performance especially in the second half.
“I thought at the offensive end, especially in the first half, their pressure really forced us back a bit and we were sloppy with the ball. Our ball movement wasn’t great either and our shot selection saw us settle too much for outside shots,” Evans said.
“We addressed that at half-time and I thought in the third quarter we did a better job of getting to the basket and actually attacking their defence which got us back into the game. In the end, whether our guys tired or their class shone through, they got the best of us.”
Evans now is looking forward to the challenge for Geraldton against East Perth on Sunday with a short turnaround.
“It’s another challenge and that’s a good thing to not have long between games,” Evans said.
“We are kind of used to this so we’ll get up in the morning and our focus goes on to an East Perth team who had a good win on Friday. We definitely can’t take them lightly and we need to split this road trip 1-1. We look forward to the game.”
WEEK 1 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Cockburn Cougars 87 lost to East Perth Eagles 93
Rockingham Flames 85 lost to Stirling Senators 87
Perth Redbacks 102 defeated Lakeside Lightning 88
Perth Redbacks 100 defeated Geraldton Buccaneers 81
Rockingham Flames 83 defeated Goldfields Giants 78
Joondalup Wolves 92 defeated Willetton Tigers 86
Perry Lakes Hawks 121 defeated Mandurah Magic 93
Stirling Senators v Goldfields Giants – Warwick Stadium 12.00pm
East Perth Eagles v Geraldton Buccaneers – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 12.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v South West Slammers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 4.00pm