THE opening weekend of the 2018 Men’s SBL season concluded with three matches on Sunday with the Stirling Senators making it two-from-two while the Geraldton Buccaneers bounced back and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns won the club’s first ever season-opener.
The 2018 Men’s SBL season began on Friday night with the East Perth Eagles beating the Cockburn Cougars 93-87, the Stirling Senators defeating the Rockingham Flames 87-85 and the Perth Redbacks downing the Lakeside Lightning 102-88.
Then on Saturday night, the Perth Redbacks beat the Geraldton Buccaneers 100-81, the Rockingham Flames defeated the Goldfields Giants 83-78, the Joondalup Wolves prevailed 92-86 over the Willetton Tigers and the Perry Lakes Hawks thumped the Mandurah Magic 121-93.
The opening round then concluded on Sunday with the Stirling Senators hammering the Goldfields Giants 109-64, the Geraldton Buccaneers winning a thriller 89-85 over the East Perth Eagles and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns defeating the South West Slammers 103-77.
Sunday’s action got underway at Warwick Stadium and the Senators backed up their tight win over the Flames in Rockingham on Friday with an emphatic performance in their home opener against the Giants.
Goldfields had little left in the tank after a five-point loss to Rockingham the previous night with Stirling coming out inspired with a 63-point first half to lead by 30 points by the main break.
The Senators then kept the Giants to just seven points in the third quarter before ending up recording the emphatic 45-point victory.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect for Stirling was the depth of performers with all 11 of the team’s players on the court for at least 11 minutes and all of them scoring, and nine of the 11 hitting five or more points.
New import Justin King was the standout with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists on 11/16 shooting, but he had plenty of strong support.
Robert Anshila finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, Jayden Coburn 15 points and eight boards, Logan Thwaites 10 points, Cody Ellis nine points and five rebounds, Austin Bruton eight points, and Corban Wroe six points, four assists and four steals.
It was a tough afternoon for the Giants with Jeylyn Sharpe top-scoring with 17 points while Jake Martin scored 12 to go with five rebounds and four assists. Brandon Holloway also hit eight points.
Then at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre, East Perth was playing its home opener after beating Cockburn narrowly on Friday on the road with Geraldton also trying to bounce back from a loss to the defending champion Perth Redbacks the previous night.
The Buccs came out firing with a strong first half to lead 50-35 at the half. The Eagles hit back strongly but ultimately just fell four points short of making it a double-win opening weekend.
Going home 1-1 made it a good weekend for the Buccs who are still awaiting the arrival of Earnest Ross.
It was veteran Aaron Ralph who ensured they got the win on Sunday too shooting the lights out at 7/12 from beyond the arc to finish with 26 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Colter Lasher added 23 points, 13 rebounds and six assists too for the Buccaneers despite shooting 9/27 from the floor and 0/6 from deep.
Gokul Natesan also finished with 17 points, five steals and three assists, Marcus Alipate 18 points and four rebounds, and Mat Wundenberg pulled down 12 rebounds – six each at the offensive and defensive end.
New East Perth import Jonathan Morse top-scored for his team with 23 points and 13 rebounds in an impressive performance again.
Drew Williamson added 12 points and 10 assists for the Eagles, Corey Easley 11 points and eight rebounds, Aiden Murphy 10 points and Andrej Donlagic 10 to go with five rebounds.
And finally at Ray Owen Sports Centre, the Eastern Suns and Slammers were both opening their 2018 campaigns in the last game of the round.
Kalamunda might have been without a third of their new-look front court with Louis Timms sidelined, but the additions of Kevin Davis and Logan Viskovich provided for plenty of excitement as the Suns won by 26 points.
It was a tight first half with the Eastern Suns up by nine at quarter-time but then just two at the half following a strong second quarter by a Slammers team under Carl Catalano in 2018 but still awaiting the return of perhaps the league’s best all-round player, Brian Voelkel.
But Kalamunda was inspired to win its first ever season-opener since joining the SBL and put together an outstanding second half outscoring South West 59 points to 35 to come away with the win to the tune of 26 points.
The impact of Kevin Davis, who previously played with the Wolves and Eagles in the SBL, was immeasurable on the Eastern Suns with the imposing big man finishing the afternoon with 18 points, 11 rebounds and two monster blocks on Slammers’ big man Sam Sopolinski.
But it was former Redback Logan Viskovich, who only signed with Kalamunda during the week, who was the real star of the show. He came off the bench and in just 19 minutes of court time, delivered 25 points and seven rebounds on 10/15 shooting from the field and 4/8 from deep.
There were plenty more Eastern Suns contributors with Billy Grey adding 13 points and seven rebounds, Kerrod Horn 14, Lachlan Staig 10 points and five boards, and Jono Diaz nine points and eight assists.
When Louis Timms is fit and ready to return, with Courtney Belger to come in mid-season to strengthen the back court, the Suns look capable of their best ever season in the SBL in 2018.
Kalamunda coach Michael Clarke couldn’t have been happier with the start to the season.
“I was happy that everyone contributed despite missing a couple of guys. Some of the newer players stepped up and were really impressive. Considering we have some more upside from here, I think that’s a good start,” Clarke said.
“By my calculations this is the club’s 11th season and the first time we’ve won a season-opener in the men’s program. It might seem small to others, but to us it’s big and you have to start somewhere and we don’t take anything for granted up here. We really work hard for what we are able to get.”
The Slammers had seven players who scored eight points or more for the afternoon but nobody who managed more than 11.
Travis Durnin ended up with 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists, Sam Sopolinski 11 points in just 13 minutes, Justin Reynolds 10 points, six boards and five steals, Clive Weeden 10 points and seven rebounds, Michael Lay 10 points and three assists, Matthew Leary nine points and Demetrius Robinson eight points and five assists.
Slammers coach Carl Catalono might not have been too impressed with much of what he saw in the second half, but it’s game one of the season.
It gives the group plenty to work on and he’s confident they will respond well.
“There was a lot of correctable stuff for us. We talked about the keys to the game and we didn’t do any of them, and that’s why we didn’t win. I thought we were controlling the game there for a while in the second quarter, but when you end up shooting 50 per cent from the free-throw line you’re not going to win any game,” Catalano said.
“They play a certain way too, they obviously train that and they played really well. We knew coming into it that they are a tough team to beat here and no team is going to be easy to beat on the road.
“Our focus is to take care of business at home and try to split as many away games as we can to compete for the season. Our challenge when they come down to us is to get them, but they outworked us, outhustled us and they are some non-negotiables for us that we want to make sure we do.
“That’s kind of the balance for a new coach to come in and try to put the imprint on the team. It takes longer than seven weeks, but we have some quality pieces and certainly we know you can get off to a bad start but recover from it. We’re still staying positive.”
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 109 defeated Goldfields Giants 64
East Perth Eagles 85 lost to Geraldton Buccaneers 89
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 103 defeated South West Slammers 77