FRESH off having Easter off and starting their double-header weekend, the Goldfields Giants and Geraldton Buccaneers produced a cracking contest in Kalgoorlie on Saturday with the Giants holding on for a one-point win.
Both regional clubs had the break over Easter and returned to action at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium on Saturday in their first go around for a double-header that will continue back in Geraldton on Sunday afternoon.
The two regional powers have had quite the rivalry over time in the SBL and another chapter was written into that on Saturday night in front of a vocal Kalgoorlie crowd with over 700 people in attendance.
Goldfields looked capable of producing an emphatic victory when up 16 midway through the third quarter. But Geraldton was able to turn the tide by upping the pressure defensively forcing the Giants to become turnover prone while they also began to get rolling offensively.
Eventually the game came down to the final possession with Goldfields leading by one after Patrick Burke got to the line and made a free-throw with 16 seconds left.
The Buccs grabbed the defensive rebound and played the game out without a timeout. The ball ended up in the hands of Colter Lasher who got a good look with a mid-range jumper, but it didn’t quite fall and Goldfields held on for the 86-85 victory.
Neither team had played over Easter with the Giants having lost their past two games, home and away, to Rockingham while the Buccs had won five of six games to open the new season.
The Giants started strongly with a couple of early threes thanks to David Humphries but Buccs point guard Wille Conner started solidly too and gave his team an early lead on an and-one play before Jay Bowie drained a triple for the home side.
Both teams were getting up and down in a high-paced opening with the Giants going into quarter-time leading 27-24.
Goldfields began to pull away early in the second period with Patrick Burke working hard and getting results inside battling against Liam Hunt and Matt Wundenberg.
But by the time Marcus Alipate converted a three-point play for the visitors, they were up 40-38 forcing Wayne Creek into a timeout. That seemed to work and the Giants finished the first half on a 10-2 run to lead 53-47 at the break.
The Giants then hit the opening five points of the second half to go up 11 with that advantage growing to 16 on a Jerome Reid layup five minutes into the third term.
The Buccs were never going to take it lying down and forced the Giants into five turnovers the rest of the quarter while going on a 10-2 run themselves to close the quarter down just four on the back of a trademark Aaron Ralph three and then unsportsmanlike foul from Mayo Malek on Liam Hunt.
That set the stage for a cracking finish and it didn’t disappoint. It took just over a minute for the Buccaneers to draw level thanks to Colter Lasher and Conner and they then led by three with bucks to Ralph and Conner.
The Buccs then looked like they would run away with it up five with an Alipate triple, Hunt inside jumper and a layup from Alipate on yet another second half Giants turnover.
That saw Geraldton lead by nine with 4:30 remaining but the Giants delivered late in stunning fashion.
Brandon Holloway was at the centre of it knocking down a triple to make it a four-point game before a putback from Malek made the margin just two.
Ralph responded with a three for the Buccs but then Holloway answered in kind. Holloway got inside to finish a runner to tie scores up with a minute to play.
Eventually with 16 seconds left, Burke got to the line and hit one to put the Giants up 86-85. But that left the Buccs with one last chance but his look didn’t quite fall and Goldfields prevailed by one.
Patrick Burke ended up top-scoring for the Giants with 19 points, 14 rebounds and three assists but he had plenty of strong support.
Brandon Holloway came up huge with 16 points and seven assists with Jay Bowie adding 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Mayo Malek 10 points and 12 boards, and Jerome Reid eight points.
David Humphries hit some big shots too on his way to 17 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Burke might have only arrived the season started and might have had to battle hard against Wundenberg and Hunt all night, but loved everything about the experience.
“I love winning rivalry games and coming into this game I was actually really excited because I love games where it’s like a wrestling match pretty much all game,” Burke said.
“It’s a huge credit to the other dudes I was playing, it was a battle all game and I get done with these kind of games and I feel like I just got out of a street fight. I love that. Playing them and getting a win was huge for the program.”
Goldfields captain Daniel Forlano couldn’t have been prouder of his team’s performance.
“We were stoked with the win. We’ve been preparing for them for a couple of weeks and we had the break, which we were really looking forward to after quite a tough run to start the season,” Forlano said.
“We always mark Geraldton into the calendar at the start of the season because of the rivalry that’s there and we think that at the moment they are the benchmark of the league. To get that win is huge for us.
“The last few years our record obviously hasn’t been great and the crowd has dropped off, but one of the great things about playing in a regional town is that you get to play near 1000 people every week. For them to see us fight and not give up in that game is awesome.”
Colter Lasher might have gone 0/5 from three but was near unstoppable when going to the rack for the Buccaneers, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Willie Conner added 16 points, three rebounds and three assists for the Buccs while Aaron Ralph contributed 16 points and five boards, Marcus Alipate 14 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Liam Hunt 12 points and nine boards.
Buccs coach Dayle Joseph was pleased with the fightback his team delivered but not to have been 16 points down to start with.
“I thought we did pretty well to get back into the game. We had a big patch there where we weren’t in it all so for the boys to fight back in the second was pretty good,” Joseph said.
“We probably had our chances to tie the game up as well and didn’t take those opportunities either. If you are relying on that last shot to go in we probably haven’t done enough right to win the game.
“We fought really hard to get back into it because we were being outplayed and being outrebounded, which are areas the guys take a bit of pride in. They showed a bit of that in the third to get us back in it but it wasn’t quite enough.”
Joseph was also proud of his captain Wundenberg to still deliver 19 minutes despite having just returned from a trip to the United States on Thursday ahead of flying to Kalgoorlie to play on Saturday night.
“He’s probably spent more time in the air over the last 48 hours than he has on the ground,” he said.
“But he played his heart out and that’s what it’s about. He played his role which is what we want everyone to do.”
Burke is now looking forward to his first trip to Geraldton for the return clash on Sunday afternoon.
“They are probably going to adjust but I feel like we are in better shape than them,” Burke said.
“I feel like if we just come out there and outlast them in the first quarter or quarter and-a-half because they are going to pissed off. They will try to come out and hit us in the mouth, but if we can withstand that then I think it should be smooth sailing for the rest of the game.”
Forlano, too, is looking forward to the challenging of backing up the Giants showing in Geraldton.
“We know Geraldton will come out hard, that’s for sure. We are expecting them to come and run at us straight from the get-go,” Forlano said.
“But we’ll be prepared and our confidence is high now after that game, and we know we can match them for 40 minutes. We’re looking forward to it.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s return clash in Geraldton, Joseph expects a strong response from his group.
“There’s not a long we can do, we won’t probably get a chance to look at the video or anything like that. But I think it was pretty obvious to us as a team where we need to be better at,” Joseph said.
“We’ll come out a lot stronger at home and hopefully they have some of the issues of getting across and travelling, and we can take advantage of that. I know we are better than what we produced in that first.
“We talked about it at half-time and I was hoping they would respond a little bit quicker than they did. But they have a lot of pride and all of those guys hate losing. They will take it to heart and we’ll have another crack tomorrow.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 7
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 84 lost to Bethanie Warwick Senators 91
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 88 defeated Willetton Tigers 86
Mandurah Magic 88 lost to Texture WA Perth Redbacks 89
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 116 defeated CMTG East Perth Eagles 100
Lakeside Lightning 96 defeated Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 94
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 86 defeated Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 85
CMTG East Perth Eagles 87 lost to ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 117
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 94 defeated Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars 70
Print Sync South West Slammers 79 lost to Lakeside Lightning 91
Willetton Tigers v Mandurah Magic – Willetton Basketball Stadium 2.00pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants – Active West Stadium 4.00pm