IT was quite the dramatic Saturday night in the Men’s SBL as the Stirling Senators finished strongly to eliminate the Perth Redbacks as the Rockingham Flames pulled off a shocker in Geraldton, the Joondalup Wolves advanced and the Lakeside Lightning pushed the Perry Lakes Hawks to Game 3.
It’s hard to imagine a much more dramatic or exciting night in Men’s SBL action as what happened on Saturday with the Redbacks hosting the Senators in Game 3 of their quarter-final series and the other three held their respective Game 2s.
The Redbacks and Senators put together two exciting games with both teams winning at home to set up the decider and in front of a passionate and raucous crowd at Belmont Oasis, they got quite the spectacle.
It started with Joel Wagner seeing stars early but it was the defending champion Redbacks as a whole handed a knockout blow by the Senators with Shawn Redhage, Ben Smith, Michael Vigor and Lee Roberts all fouling out.
Stirling stormed home after being behind all evening to advance to the semi finals with the 71-69 win that ended one heck of a quarter-final series.
The other shocker of the night came at Active West Stadium with the eighth-seeded Rockingham Flames closing the deal against the regular season champion Geraldton Buccaneers, winning 96-89.
The Joondalup Wolves proved too strong in two games for the Willetton Tigers, clinching that series with a 109-87 victory at Willetton Basketball Stadium. The Wolfpack now take on the Senators in a semi-final series with all the hallmarks of being a classic.
The other series is going to a Game 3 after the Lakeside Lightning beat the Perry Lakes Hawks 103-100 at Lakeside Recreation Centre. The decider will be held at Bendat Basketball Centre at noon on Sunday with the winner to play the Flames in the semis.
FRIDAY MEN’S SBL RECAP – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2
ROSS THRIVING AT BUCCS, WANTS TO BRING TITLE TO GERALDTON MEN’S SBL PREVIEW – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2
FLAMES DEFY ODDS TO GIVE THEMSELVES A SHOT IN GERALDTON
DRIVEN REDBACKS EXPECTING EVEN MORE HEAT FROM SENATORS
WARRIOR WUNDENBERG FIGHTING TO KEEP DREAM ALIVE
SCOTT AND TIGERS CONFIDENT OF CAUSING DAMAGE FROM SEVENTH SPOT
IN LIMBO ELLIS BACKS SENATORS TO GO ALL THE WAY
The Game 2 quarter-final action on Saturday night got underway at Active West Stadium with the regular season champion Buccaneers under pressure to bounce back against the Flames.
The eighth-seeded Rockingham had shocked Geraldton in Game 1 on their home floor but it was going to be a whole other story to try to do that on the road.
The Buccs started the game well to lead 27-23 by quarter-time and even went on a 12-0 scoring run to open up a lead of as much as 12 points during the second half.
The home team was still up 49-41 at half-time but having also led at the break last Saturday night in Rockingham, they knew the Flames wouldn’t be going away.
And that’s exactly how it panned out. Kevin White had a scoreless first half, but hit five quick points to bring the Flames close and then Ryan Godfrey’s huge night continued as Rockingham made up the deficit and then shot ahead of the Buccaneers.
That turned the heat further back on a Buccs team who finished the regular season in top spot and after years of heartbreak of going so close so many times since the 2000 championship, had hoped that 2018 would finally be their year.
That pressure worked against them, though, and Rockingham stayed tough through a mix of the old and the young. Justin Beard hit five quick last quarter points in succession before White, Hire and Godfrey ensured the Flames got the job done and continued the heartache for the Buccaneers.
It was a stunning two-game performance by the Flames who just never quite got going in the regular season.
But with an NBL vice-captain and triple championship winner in Hire, another NBL captain in White, solid import in Curtis Washington, the leadership and ability of Godfrey and then an exciting group of young locals led by Justin Beard and Luke Travers, and they now move into the semi finals against either the Hawks or Lightning full of confidence.
It will be a tough exit to stomach for Geraldton on the back of reaching the Grand Final in 2014, losing to a hot Giants in 2015 and then semi-final exits the past two years with Game 3 road losses to the Cougars and Wolves.
Having won 18 of 19 games coming into the playoffs, to bow out in two games of the first round will take some time to get over.
Ryan Godfrey was the star of the night for the Flames with the captain delivering 31 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists on shooting 11/15 from the field, 5/7 from three-point range and 4/7 from the foul line.
Greg Hire added 16 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for Rockingham with Justin Beard producing 13 points, Luke Travers 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Curtis Washington eight points and eight boards, and Kevin White seven points, six assists and three rebounds.
Earnest Ross tried to put the Buccs on his back and finished with 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals on shooting 11/25 from the field, 5/12 from three-point range and 7/8 at the foul line.
Colter Lasher added 18 points and eight rebounds, Aaron Ralph 14 points, Gokul Natesan 13 points and six boards, and Liam Hunt nine points and 11 rebounds.
Captain Mat Wundenberg clearly wasn’t fit to play but he showed great heart to even hit the floor for almost five and-a-half minutes and collect five rebounds.
Another team with a big task on Saturday night in Game 2 despite being back at home was Lakeside who were hosting Perry Lakes at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
The Hawks came into the contest on a 13-game winning streak including beating the Lightning 112-79 last Saturday night at Bendat Basketball Centre, so it was going to take some turnaround from Lakeside to force a Game 3.
That’s exactly what the Lightning were able to pull off, but they had to overcome a slow start to do so.
Perry Lakes took control to lead by seven at quarter-time and by as much as nine, but Lakeside did hit back in the second quarter with scores tied at the break.
The Lightning then turned it on in the third quarter with 35 points to 26 before holding out the Hawks late in the piece to win by three points and force the deciding Game 3 back at Bendat Basketball Centre from noon on Sunday.
It was Bryan Michaels who provided the Lightning with a match-winning performance delivering 34 points and seven rebounds on shooting 14/23 from the floor and 4/5 from long range.
Daniel Alexander also finished with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Lakeside, Rowan Mackenzie 21 points, four boards and three assists, Corey Shervill 15 points and nine rebounds, and the legend Jarrad Prue six points and 19 boards.
Lochlan Cummings top-scored for Perry Lakes with 23 points, three rebounds and two assists including hitting 5/10 from three-point territory.
Jacob Holmen also had 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists for the Hawks, Brian Carlwell 15 points, seven boards and four blocks, Ben Purser 13 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, Mitch Clarke 12 points and five assists, and Jordan Hickert nine points.
The other Game 2 on Saturday night took place at Willetton Basketball Stadium with the Tigers looking to force a decider against a Wolves team that claimed Game 1 last Saturday night at HBF Arena by 36 points.
It wasn’t to be, though, with the Wolves on top virtually all night leading by three points at quarter-time, 14 points at half-time, 12 at three quarter-time and then going on to lead by as much as 25 points before winning by 22.
The win sees the Wolfpack advance to yet another semi-final series, this time against the Senators, as they attempt to reach a fourth successive Grand Final.
Jalen Billups showed how valuable of a pick up he is to the Wolves this season by delivering 29 points, six rebounds and two assists on shooting 12/16 from the field while Rob Huntington supported him with 25 points, four rebounds and two assists as they made the Tigers pay for their lack of depth and size up front.
Reece Maxwell added 13 points, three steals, two assists and two rebounds for Joondalup, Brian Sullivan 12 points, eight assists, three steals and three boards, Trian Iliadis 11 points and Damian Matacz nine points and five rebounds.
Damien Scott did all he could for Willetton with 28 points, five steals and three assists with Jay Bowie contributing 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, Andrew Black 11 points and five assists, and Badou Diagne 10 points and five rebounds.
It was then time for the Game 3 decider between the Redbacks and Senators after the opening two games had been remarkable encounters, with Perth winning last Friday at home 114-109 and Stirling winning Game 2 on Saturday night 107-96.
It was a packed Belmont Oasis ready for the decider between a Redbacks team trying to defend their championship and a Senators team desperate to finally get out of the first round and show they are a genuine title threat.
That set the stage and it was always going to be a game with plenty of heat and drama, and that certainly undersells what was to come over the next couple of hours.
The game began with the first quarter dominated by the referee’s whistles with 14 fouls called but the Redbacks were especially rattled when captain Joel Wagner was dazed after copping a heavy knock and then fellow point guard Jackson Hussey had two early fouls.
But the Redbacks still managed to lead 23-18 at quarter-time despite a deep three on the buzzer for the Senators from Justin King who had 40 points the previous evening.
It remained a tight and tense affair in the second quarter but the Redbacks remained in control and still led 43-38 despite again the Senators finishing on a high with a Corban Wroe to Robert Anshila alley-oop on the buzzer.
Cody Ellis and Lee Roberts then came out to start the second half trading threes to set the tone for a dramatic conclusion to the series.
The Redbacks did pull away, though, with a 7-0 run from Michael Vigor, Roberts and Mo Barrow to lead by 10. They were still up by 10 at three quarter-time, but this one had plenty more to play out.
That’s where the fouls from early in the night really began to take toll with the Redbacks losing Vigor with seven minutes left, Roberts with 6:22 remaining, Ben Smith with 4:38 left and then Shawn Redhage with 3:09 remaining.
Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic had to turn to Lachlan Forrest, Majier Garang and Zac Gattorna to play big roles in the last quarter along with a clearly well below 100 per cent captain Wagner after the knock he took in the opening quarter.
But it was Stirling who picked up the momentum and deserve full credit for that despite what the opposition was dealing with. With a vocal contingent of their fans behind them, the Senators looked like a tidal wave destined to run over the top of the Redbacks virtually the whole last quarter.
They kept the Redbacks scoreless for the first four minutes and were just relentless especially on the offensive glass down the stretch led by Ash Litterick, Caleb Davis and Anshila.
But to the Redbacks’ everlasting credit, they never threw in the towel and still had a chance at the winner on the buzzer. But Wagner’s three-point attempt didn’t go and it was the Senators celebrating the two-point win and advancing to the semi finals against local rivals Joondalup.
While the Senators put up 109 and 107 points over the first two games, it was much more of a grind in Game 3 but Justin King still led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Cody Ellis added 14 points and six rebounds, Robert Anshila 13 points, 13 rebounds and six steals, Caleb Davis 11 points and eight boards, Ash Litterick eight points and seven rebounds, and Corban Wroe six points, six assists and three steals.
It will be a loss that sticks with the Redbacks for some time as their title defence comes to an end but Shawn Redhage had 14 points and three rebounds, Lee Roberts 13 points and six boards, Mo Barrow 13 points and seven rebounds, Michael Vigor seven points, five boards, three assists and three massive blocks.
Jackson Hussey also had seven points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
After two years of competitive quarter-final losses, taking the Senators to the semi finals and doing so in such dramatic and gutsy fashion against the defending champions was something that left Senators coach Mike Ellis beaming with pride about afterwards.
“The biggest thing for us was just the belief that we could do it and not getting caught up in the emotion of the game, and it was a very emotive game out there. There was a lot of passion on both sides and guys going at it,” Ellis said.
“But often in the past we’ve got caught up in that and we didn’t do that tonight. We focused more and stuck to our game plan and that was important.
“Because of that, we had guys refocusing people and that was clearly the difference for us because we just kept going. We kept the faith and it eventually turned our way.
“It was the defensive end that was the big thing for me. They had that lead and were 11 up and we said we had to lock them down, and stop the baskets because we knew we’d get baskets out of it.
“The two things that really identified that game was our defence where we held them to seven points in the fourth quarter and offensively our rebounding at the end of the game was amazing. We just kept it alive on missed shots and came up with the ball to give us those extra possessions we needed to get in front.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2
GAME 2 (Best of 3)
Stirling Senators (6) 107 defeated Perth Redbacks (3) 96
Geraldton Buccaneers (1) 89 lost to Rockingham Flames (8) 96 (Rockingham wins 2-0)
Lakeside Lightning (5) 103 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks (4) 100 (Series tied 1-1)
Willetton Tigers (7) 87 lost to Joondalup Wolves (2) 109 (Joondalup wins 2-0)
Perth Redbacks (3) 69 lost to Stirling Senators 71 (6) (Stirling wins 2-1)
Perry Lakes Hawks (4) v Lakeside Lightning (5) – Bendat Basketball Centre 12.00pm