THE lone Sunday game in the Women’s SBL for Round 1 of the 2018 season saw the Kalamunda Eastern Suns put together an impressive second half despite being shorthanded to beat the South West Slammers 93-84.
The 2018 Women’s SBL season got underway on Friday night with the Cockburn Cougars beating the East Perth Eagles 85-56, the Rockingham Flames downing the Stirling Senators 80-73 and the Lakeside Lightning defeating the Perth Redbacks 84-73.
There were two more games on Saturday night with the Willetton Tigers beating the Joondalup Wolves 86-67 and the Mandurah Magic winning the Grand Final rematch 69-45 against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
Then on Sunday afternoon at Ray Owen Sports Centre, the opening round concluded with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns recording the nine-point victory over the South West Slammers.
The Eastern Suns and Slammers both waited until Sunday afternoon to open their 2018 seasons and they came out firing in a first quarter featuring 58 points between them, and South West up by two at quarter-time.
The Slammers then pulled away in the second quarter making the most of a smaller and inexperienced Suns line-up with Jennie Rintala yet to arrive. The visitors led 57-48 at the half.
But the Eastern Suns turned things around in the second half on their home floor to lead by a point by three quarter-time and then with 19 points to 11 in the fourth period they won by nine.
Jorjah Smith finished up with 21 points and five rebounds for Kalamunda with Jewel Williams contributing 21 points off the bench including shooting 3/5 from beyond the arc.
Alex Ciabattoni, fresh off her WNBL season with the Perth Lynx, also made an impressive debut on limited preparation for the Suns with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on 10/16 shooting. Going 0/6 from the foul line was far from ideal though.
Rebecca Motroni added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Eastern Suns with Lakeside recruit Alecia Knowles adding seven points and eight boards.
There were plenty of encouraging signs for the Slammers despite the loss especially from rising stars Georgia Denehey and Tayah Burrows who look capable of taking the next step again in 2018. Denehey finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Burrows 19 points and four boards.
Dutch import big Charlotte van Kleef had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Slammers with Courtney Bayliss contributing 15 points, six boards and four assists, and Kate Fielding 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Eastern Suns coach Tom Knowles challenged his group to pick things up in the second half and what he got especially in the last 15 minutes gives him plenty of heart now to look towards the rest of 2018 with positivity.
“I actually challenged them at half-time and it took a little while to kick in, we had to address it again in another time out, but I said the effort level was going to get you back into the game. They definitely brought some more effort and it definitely got them back into the game,” Knowles said.
“It was just sheer trying harder and going after the ball harder. We still made a heap of errors, but the effort level and defensive performance got us back into the game.
“We knocked down big shots as well, but a lot of those were nice, open looks and the shots that are within our offence we are happy to take because we want to be a perimeter shooting team. I was pretty happy with the way that worked out in the last quarter so it wasn’t a bad start.
“I was a little bit nervous because we were a bit behind with Alex only having been here for a week and we had some other new girls playing with us for the first time.
“Jennie’s not here obviously, so we were very small, but I thought we guarded van Kleef reasonably well and for the first game out it wasn’t too bad at all. I’m reasonably happy.”
WEEK 1 WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Cockburn Cougars 85 defeated East Perth Eagles 56
Rockingham Flames 80 defeated Stirling Senators 73
Perth Redbacks 73 lost to Lakeside Lightning 84
Joondalup Wolves 67 lost to Willetton Tigers 86
Perry Lakes Hawks 45 lost to Mandurah Magic 69
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 93 defeated South West Slammers 84