THE Warwick Senators continue to be the hottest team in the Men’s SBL overcoming the absence of Ash Litterick and the return for Lakeside of Michael Vigor to score an impressive 12-point win at Warwick Stadium on Friday night.
The Senators and Lightning both made playoffs last year, with Warwick losing to the Joondalup Wolves in the semi finals and Lakeside to the Perry Lakes Hawks in the quarter finals, but both look to have significantly upgraded further in 2019.
That was evident in their records coming into Friday night’s clash of a combined 17-5 and the contest didn’t disappoint with both sides desperate to make a statement of their championship credentials.
In the end, despite Jarrad Prue and Michael Vigor there for Lakeside, Warwick dominated the boards over the last three quarters and with their length and versatility again proving a great strength at both ends of the floor, they came away with the 90-78 victory.
The win improves the Senators to 10-2 on the season having now won nine straight ahead of a clash with the Willetton Tigers at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
The Lightning are now 8-4 but will be looking forward to seeing how the group comes together with the full line-up now available.
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Even though the Senators started the game with consecutive threes to Wani Swaka Lu Buluk and Caleb Davis, the Lightning soon took over and it was Jarrad Prue hitting their first four points including on a trademark offensive board.
Michael Vigor then hit their next four points, including a dunk on another offensive rebound, and the signs were there that Lakeside could dominate inside.
When Jobi Wall hit six quick points too for the Lightning, they took the lead and were still up 27-20 by quarter-time.
Triples from Davis and Ngor Manyang turned things around and had Warwick back in front narrowly two minutes into the second period before the Lightning responded with a 7-0 run of their own.
Things remained tight leading into half-time with Warwick only leading 44-43 at the break with a dunk on the buzzer from Manyang following an offensive board.
By the time Justin King nailed a three four minutes into the second half, the Senators were up nine with all the momentum.
While the Lightning never gave up the ghost, they never really got within striking distance the rest of the way with the Senators going on to win by 12 for the ninth straight win.
The Senators finished with 41 rebounds to 40 for the night on top of 19 assists and just 10 turnovers for 33 made field goals. They restricted Lakeside to going 8/25 from three-point range and with winning the rebound battle and conceding just eight triples, that was pivotal in the final result.
With Ash Litterick sitting out with an injured ankle, Robert Anshila stepped up big time for the Senators for his best game of the season with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Justin King top-scored for Warwick with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists with Caleb Davis also contributing 17 points and four assists, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Cody Ellis seven points, five boards, two assists and two steals.
Ngor Manyang continued his run of career-best form too with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and two assists including hitting two three-pointers.
Michael Vigor showed just what a difference-maker he could be for the Lightning delivering 24 points and seven rebounds despite the loss.
Rowan Mackenzie also put up 19 points, five rebounds and four assists while Jobi Wall produced 12 points and four rebounds, Kyle Armour 12 points and eight assists, and Jarrad Prue nine points and 11 rebounds.
Coming off his 37-point Player of the Round performance, Jack Isenbarger had just two points on 1/7 shooting.
Senators coach Mike Ellis always knew that the Lightning would be a significant test for his group, and he couldn’t be happier with the way they responded.
“They’re tough, they are really tough. They are a very good team and now bringing Vigor in makes them tougher again. The thing with those guys is that they are just so explosive and can put points on in a hurry,” Ellis said.
“For me, the pleasing thing for us was our defence, it was tough. We didn’t give them too many easy looks and they live and die by those. If they get those easy looks, they knock them down but our goal was to not give them too many easy looks and we stuck to that.
“Our defence and the boards were key. After the first quarter they were up on the boards and had eight offensive boards in the first quarter, but I told the guys that we can’t allow them to continue to do that or we’ll be on the wrong end of the ledger.
“To the boys’ credit, they just worked really hard and got on top in that area. That was the difference in the game, we rebounded the ball so much better and we limited their second chance opportunities which meant our defence was better.
“I’m very pleased because I was nervous about this game, especially without Ash who has been playing really well. But the rest of the guys stepped up and we’ve been pretty good this year where if someone goes down, somebody else steps up and that’s the sign of a good team.
“I think we are starting to get some belief in the fact that we are actually a good team now. This game was always going to be a good test for us.”
Ellis is now also fully aware that the Senators have to be fully on their game on the road to Willetton on Saturday night if they are to win a 10th consecutive game.
“Backing up is always tough and the hard part is you have a big win like this, this is a good win against a very good team, you always have the possibility of a letdown,” Ellis said.
“You cannot be letdown against Willetton because with those players out there and then they have a heap of role players, they can burn you in a heartbeat if you’re not ready to play.
“It is a big challenge for us to come out and get ready to play against Willo tomorrow night.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 11
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 98 lost to Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 108
Bethanie Warwick Senators 90 defeated Lakeside Lightning 78
Willetton Tigers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Mandurah Magic – Niels Hansen Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – HBF Arena 7.30pm
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v CMTG East Perth Eagles – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
CMTG East Perth Eagles v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Herb Graham Recreation Centre 12.00pm