THE Perry Lakes Hawks hung tough and showed great heart to beat a strong and tenacious Rockingham Flames in two games this weekend to book a place in next Saturday night’s Men’s SBL Grand Final against the Joondalup Wolves.
Perry Lakes had qualified in fourth position on a 12-game winning streak, but it looked as though the Hawks’ Grand Final dreams were in serious jeopardy losing reigning league MVP Jacob Holmen in a Game 1 semi-final loss at home to the Rockingham Flames.
The Flames were full of momentum and confidence having also eliminated the Geraldton Buccaneers, but the Hawks were able to win a tremendous battle 96-92 on Friday night in front of 1500 people at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
It was another big crowd on hand at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night in Game 3 and it was another physical, heated, intense and quality battle between the Hawks and Flames.
Ultimately it was a turnover late in the piece from Greg Hire, who had a monster night and series for the Flames, while defended by Ben Purser that proved critical and when Rob Cassir dived on the subsequent loose ball, it was as crucial as anything in securing the 102-96 victory.
The win sees the Hawks advance to the Grand Final to play the Wolves back at Bendat Basketball Centre next Saturday night and based on their last meeting of the regular season at HBF Arena that went to overtime, it shapes as a tantalising championship decider in 2018.
FRIDAY MEN’S SBL RECAP – SEMI FINALS WEEK 2
MEN’S SBL PREVIEW – SEMI FINALS WEEK 2
MIKE ELLIS PROUD OF SON BUT BEWILDERED NO NBL SPOT FOR CODY
EMERGING BEARD THRIVING ON BIG CHALLENGES WITH FLAMES
HOLMEN-LESS HAWKS REFOCUS ON GRAND FINAL PUSH
DIFFERENCE-MAKER SULLIVAN WANTS TO PAY WOLFPACK BACK
While the Wolves had already locked away a fourth successive Men’s SBL Grand Final appearance after wrapping up its semi-final series with the Stirling Senators on Friday night at Warwick Stadium, their opponent was anything but certain.
As one would expect with a Grand Final berth on the line, tempers threatened to boil over Friday night in front of a packed Mike Barnett Sports Complex as Perry Lakes finished the stronger to beat Rockingham by four points and force the Game 3 decider.
It was another good turnout to witness the Game 3 on Saturday night at Bendat Basketball Centre with Perry Lakes attempting to win its way through to a first Grand Final since 2011 and Rockingham to its first ever.
With the competitors on either side, it was never going to be anything but a physically intense battle and it certainly didn’t fail to deliver.
Brian Carlwell, Ben Purser and Ryan Smith helped the Hawks to a 6-2 opening and it was 8-4 after a Carlwell two-handed slam. But the Hawks big man soon picked up a second early foul and Greg Hire had eight of Rockingham’s first 10 points to level up scores.
But by the time Mitch Clarke went to the free-throw on the buzzer, he put his team up 30-25 at quarter-time.
Rob Cassir showed he still has plenty of game left with two big layups early in the second quarter before the Flames stayed in touch with a triple from Kevin White.
Carlwell came back on midway through the second quarter and delivered an and-one drawing a foul on a struggling Curtis Washington for Rockingham.
When Smith also hit a three, the Hawks were out to a 10-point lead but Hire was having nothing of it and hit five quick Rockingham points.
Hire hit another triple shortly before half-time too but with Smith and Lochlan Cummings responding for Perry Lakes, the Hawks held a 53-48 lead at half-time.
The Flames started the second half on fire with consecutive triples from Hire and Ryan Godfrey, but Carlwell started strongly too for Perry Lakes and shortly after Washington was subbed out by Flames coach Brad Samuelson and didn’t return for the last 15 minutes of the game.
Every time the Hawks again threatened to pull away, the Flames were able to respond and while it was mostly through Hire, Luke Travers chimed with a triple in the third quarter and Justin Beard made some important baskets.
But it was young point guard Mitch Clarke who drilled two three-pointers in the last two minutes of the third quarter to give Perry Lakes an 80-74 advantage.
Things really threatened to boil over when Travis Hayto had a run in with Hire under the basket late in the third quarter, but the focus was back on the game to start the fourth with Rockingham back within three points after a Jarryd Griffin trifecta.
Every possession was taking on greater importance as the fourth quarter went on and scores were all square with 6:30 left after a Justin Beard three for Rockingham.
The Flames then pulled ahead when Godfrey nailed another triple before the lead was out to five with a basket to young gun Travers.
Beard nailed two more crucial free-throws soon after to make it a five-point lead again for the visitors before Cassir nailed an important layup for the Hawks.
Hire, though, continued to be the focal point for Rockingham and delivered another layup with 2:30 left to put his team up 91-88.
Perry Lakes was able to regain the lead with 1:15 left when Smith hit a three but Rockingham answered with two free-throws from Beard to lead 94-93.
Then it was time for someone else to step up and that man was Cooper Hamilton for Perry Lakes. He hit the biggest shot of his young career from downtown to put the Hawks in front 96-94 with 45 seconds left.
Beard did make two free-throws to level scores again before Smith delivered a layup for the Hawks to put them back up by two and Rockingham called a timeout to draw up the last play of the game.
They got the look they wanted with Hire receiving the ball in the post isolated with Purser. But as he made his move, he lost the ball and Perry Lakes’ Cassir was able to dive on the loose ball.
He was fouled and made the free-throws and ultimately that sealed the win and the Hawks were through to the Grand Final.
Ryan Smith delivered 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Perry Lakes including going 5/9 from three-point territory.
Brian Carlwell was tremendous too with 19 points and nine rebounds on 9/11 shooting in just 19 minutes of court time.
Rob Cassir also finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, Ben Purser 16 points, 10 assists and seven boards, Lochlan Cummings 15 points, three rebounds and three assists, and Mitch Clarke eight points, four boards and three assists.
Hawks coach Matt Parsons never questioned the belief in his group of still reaching the Grand Final even with Jacob Holmen joining Dan Thomas with a season-ending injury.
“We never questioned the character of our team at all and we kind of built this team to be deep and be able to get through periods of injury and adversity,” Parsons said.
“We knew that was something we’ve been talking about and have built ourselves for over the last couple of years. It’s never a nice thing when it happens to one of our core players like Jacob is, but we knew there were other people there that could step up and I think that’s what happened in this series.
“At the end of the day, we know we’re a man down and we knew we have to pull out those extra effort levels from certain people. Everyone this weekend who got opportunities did that and they represented their club proudly.”
Greg Hire delivered another inspirational performance for Rockingham with 29 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals on shooting 12/17 from the field and 5/7 from beyond the arc.
Justin Beard concluded his breakout season with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists with Ryan Godfrey adding 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, and Luke Travers 15 points. Kevin White had six points, eight assists and three rebounds despite shooting just 2/9 from the field.
SEMI FINALS WEEK 2 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
GAME 2 (Best of 3)
Rockingham Flames 92 lost to Perry Lakes Hawks 96
Stirling Senators 74 lost to Joondalup Wolves 87 (Joondalup wins 2-0)
Perry Lakes Hawks 102 defeated Rockingham Flames 96 (Perry Lakes wins 2-1)