THE Men’s SBL quarter finals began with a Friday night cracker but Saturday was for statements to be made and the Perry Lakes Hawks and Joondalup Wolves did so with massive Game 1 wins while the Rockingham Flames stunned the Geraldton Buccaneers.
The SBL Finals for 2018 got underway on Friday night with just the one Game 1 quarter-final contest and that saw the Perth Redbacks win a cracker 114-109 over the Stirling Senators at Belmont Oasis.
There were then three matches on Saturday night with the Perry Lakes Hawks making it 13 straight with quite the impressive performance to beat the Lakeside Lightning 112-79 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Joondalup Wolves then made one heck of a statement too beating the Willetton Tigers 102-66 in the first ever playoff held at HBF Arena.
The only game of the weekend that had the lower seed at home took place at Mike Barnett Sports Complex and it was the Rockingham Flames causing the upset beating the regular season champion Geraldton Buccaneers 89-76.
The Game 1 results set the stage for next weekend where the Senators and Redbacks battle in Game 2 at Warwick Stadium. A win for Stirling and Game 3 will be back at Belmont Oasis on Saturday night.
The other three Game 2’s take place on Saturday night with the Buccs hosting the Flames, Lightning hosting the Hawks and Tigers at home to the Wolfpack.
A win for the Buccaneers and Game 3 will also be at Active West Stadium on Sunday while Lakeside and Willetton need to win to force a Game 3 back at Bendat Basketball Centre and HBF Arena respectively.
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Saturday night’s Game 1 quarter-final action in the SBL began at Bendat Basketball Centre with the on-fire Hawks hosting a Lightning who had been equally as hot before losing Jack Isenbarger, but had still entered the playoffs in winning form from fifth position.
But there was no stopping the brilliant form Perry Lakes is in and on their home floor, they made a hot start with 31 points to 18. They had extended that advantage to 62-47 by half-time.
The Hawks then finished the contest with 25 points to 10 in the fourth quarter to end up winning by 33 points and make it 13 straight wins to need just one more victory to advance to the semi finals after losing in the first round to Joondalup, Cockburn and Willetton the past three years.
There were plenty of big performances for Perry Lawks with Ryan Smith top-scoring with 22 points including shooting 6/9 from three-point range.
Lochlan Cummings also had 20 points and five rebounds for the Hawks, Ben Purser 20 points, 10 assists, eight boards and four steals, and Jacob Holmen 18 points, seven assists, six blocked shots and five rebounds.
Mitch Clarke also had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Brian Carlwell eight points and eight boards.
Daniel Alexander finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Lakeside with Corey Shervill adding 17 points, Rowan Mackenzie 14 points and four boards, Bryan Michaels 13 points and three assists, and Jarrad Prue 10 points, 19 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
HBF Arena hosted its first ever playoff game on Saturday night with the Wolves hosting the Tigers in a rematch of the semi finals of 2016 and a battle between two semi finalists again of 2017.
There has been a nice rivalry building between the teams too so a lot was expected from the opening game of series, but it was all the Wolves who dominated from start to finish.
The home side who ended the regular season in second position came out with 24 points to 12 in the opening quarter and the Tigers could never real get back into the contest from there.
The Wolfpack then went on to outscore them 54 points to 30 in the second half to romp to the 36-point victory ahead of Game 2 at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
The Wolves had 12 players hitting the floor with all of them scoring with Brian Sullivan leading the way with 23 points, four rebounds and two assists on the back of hitting 5/7 from three-point territory.
Jalen Billups added 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals with Trian Iliadis contributing 16 points and five steals, Rob Huntington 11 points, three boards, three assists and two blocked shots, and Jordan Wellsteed nine points and four steals.
Jay Bowie top-scored for Willetton with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists on shooting an efficient and imprssive 8/12 from the floor, 4/4 from beyond the arc and 3/3 at the foul line.
Damien Scott added 20 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists for Willetton with Hayden Noordhoek contributing 10 points off the bench. Badou Diagne had just two points and three rebounds, shooting 1/7 in 19 minutes.
The final quarter-final Game 1 of the weekend then took place at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the regular season champion Buccs on the road to the eighth seeded Flames.
While the Buccaneers entered the contest minus captain Mat Wundenberg who didn’t suit up despite making the trip with his team from Geraldton, they still came into the contest warm favourites having finished the regular season in top spot.
But this was a motivated and determined Flames outfit that came out to make a statement and taking the deep and dangerous Buccs out of their game, getting under their skins and trying to get them to lose focus on playing to their impressive potential.
The Buccs averaged 98.4 points a game through the season but the Flames never allowed them to get close to that on Saturday night. The home impressed in the first quarter with 24 points to 17 but as expected, Geraldton fired back leading into half-time.
Aaron Ralph nailed three triples of his own to help Geraldton put together a 23-10 second quarter to have all the momentum heading into half-time leading 40-34.
But the Flames turned things up more than a notch at both ends of the floor after half-time and the Buccaneers couldn’t go with them. By three quarter-time, Rockingham led by six after being six down at the half.
They went on with the job in the fourth quarter too to end up winning by 13 points despite Kevin White fouling out for the Flames.
The Buccs received technical against coach Ray Evans and Liam Hunt, and despite Earnest Ross and Gokul Natesan, especially, trying some individual exploits to close the gap, it wasn’t to be and Rockingham now heads to Geraldton this weekend one-nil up in the series.
Justin Beard continued his emergence this season with the Flames with a tremendous performance made up of 29 points and six rebounds, shooting 12/18 from the field and 5/9 from three-point territory.
Having an NBL captain and another NBL vice-captain and triple championship winner with a combined experience of 394 games should provide quite a lot in the SBL playoffs, and that certainly happened for the Flames in the form Kevin White and Greg Hire.
White finished with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists while nailing 4/6 from downtown with Hire delivering 15 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and two steals despite shooting 5/16. Most tellingly of all, the Flames outscored the Buccs by 27 points with White on the floor.
Young gun Luke Travers also had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Flames, including an impressive two-handed slam, with Curtis Washington contributing 11 points and five rebounds, and Ryan Godfrey 10 points.
Gokul Natesan top-scored for the Buccaneers with 19 points with Colter Lasher adding 18 points and nine rebounds.
Earnest Ross also had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, Aaron Ralph 12 points and four boards, and Liam Hunt 10 points, 13 rebounds and four assists who started in the absence of captain Mat Wundenberg.
Flames coach Brad Samuelson couldn’t have been happier with how his team took the challenge up to the Buccs and thrived, particularly coming out of half-time.
“We were really impressed with the young group. It’s been a very difficult season this year and we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, as most people would know who have come to watch the Flames play,” Samuelson said.
“With injuries and trying to get people to training due to personal commitments especially with our major players it hasn’t been easy, but for this week to bound together and to be able to come out and put pretty much 40 minutes together was very impressive from the young group.
“We lost our way a little bit during the second quarter when we had a lead of about eight points but all of a sudden they went into the break six up.
“But the half-time speech was all very positive and it was about keeping your heads up and we’re right in this game against the best team in the competition, and let’s get back out there and have fun.
“We addressed the team and said the next three minutes will determine our season so we were very impressed to come out and do something which we haven’t done all season, and come out firing. Those first five minutes of the second half set the tone and it gave us a great result.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1
GAME 1 (BEST OF 3)
Perth Redbacks (3) 114 defeated Stirling Senators (6) 109
Perry Lakes Hawks (4) 112 defeated Lakeside Lightning (5) 79
Joondalup Wolves (2) 102 defeated Willetton Tigers (7) 66
Rockingham Flames (8) 89 defeated Geraldton Buccaneers (1) 76