THE Geraldton Buccaneers had to fight hard to shake off the East Perth Eagles on Sunday afternoon at Herb Graham Recreation Centre in the absence of their new import and starting forward, but the Buccs made a 22-0 second half run to set up the eventual 20-point victory.
East Perth was doing well to stick with Geraldton for the first two and-a-half quarters with the Eagles now under the tutelage of Colin Driscoll with Adam Forde having officially stepped down as coach as he prepares to leave for Sydney for a new assistant coaching role in the NBL with the Kings.
The Eagles only trailed by five when Shaquille Maharaj knocked down a three with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.
But from there, the Buccs scored the next 22 points of the contest starting with a pair of Aaron Ralph free-throws and finishing with a trademark Ralph triple with 6:30 left in the game.
Geraldton went on to win 103-83 with new import DeAngelo Isby travelling with the team but not suiting up and Brayden Inger back home sidelined with an injury as they bounced back from a narrow three-point Saturday night loss to the Joondalup Wolves to begin the road double-header.
It was a second loss of the weekend for East Perth under Driscoll’s coaching after a 17-point loss in Rockingham on Saturday evening.
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Both East Perth and Geraldton came into the Sunday afternoon contest after losing the previous night with the Eagles losing in Rockingham by 17 points and the Buccaneers going down to the Wolfpack in a nail-biter by three.
So that had them both determined to bounce back with East Perth looking to stay in touch with the top eight and Geraldton out to remain entrenched inside the top four.
Despite an early East Perth three from captain Drew Williamson, Geraldton got the better of the start opening up a 12-3 lead forcing Colin Driscoll into his first timeout of the game.
It didn’t have an immediate response with the Buccaneers soon going up 17-5 after Marcus Alipate nailed a three-pointer, but then Shaquille Maharaj responded in kind and the Eagles worked back into the contest.
Cameron Williams then hit a three as well and with Maharaj knocking down his second three, Geraldton’s lead was cut to 24-20 by quarter-time.
Each time the Buccaneers threatened to pull away in the second quarter, the Eagles were able to score to stay in touch until three consecutive triples from Alipate saw the visitors go up by nine heading towards half-time.
But seven quick East Perth points from Jordan Wellsteed to close the half saw Geraldton’s lead just 50-46 at half-time.
The Eagles then stuck with the Buccs for the first half of the third quarter too including a three-point play from Dennis Tawhiti and then 10 quick points from Maharaj in the space of two minutes, including knocking down two from beyond the arc.
But the Buccs finished the third quarter with the last seven points including yet another three from Alipate to lead 78-66 at three quarter-time.
Geraldton continued that momentum into the fourth period scoring the first 15 points including an and-one play from Liam Hunt, two triples from Ralph and another from Alipate to continue the best outing of his SBL career.
By the time Matt Wundenberg hit a free-throw, Geraldton led 97-69 before their 22-0 run ended thanks to a three-pointer from Ned Seery for East Perth but the Buccs went on to cruise to the 103-83 win.
It was a dominant performance on the glass from the Buccs as they reeled in 52 rebounds to 30 including 19 on the offensive end for 17 second chance points.
The Buccs also hit 15/32 from three-point range and had 29 assists on 33 made field goals for the game. They also forced the Eagles into 17 turnovers and scored 22 points from those.
Marcus Alipate was the star of the contest for Geraldton finishing with 35 points, six rebounds and six assists while nailing 9/14 from three-point range and 6/6 from the foul line. His previous season-high was 23 points against Cockburn.
Aaron Ralph battled away too in usual fashion for the Buccs compiling 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals, starting in the absence of both DeAngelo Isby and Brayden Inger. Brendan Dinardo started too and did well with 10 points, five boards, three assists and two steals.
Colter Lasher produced 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as well for the Buccaneers while Liam Hunt added 10 points and four rebounds, and Matt Wundenberg three points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Buccs coach Dayle Joseph was pleased with the weekend overall and with seeing how his team bounced back from losing on Saturday night, and then adjusted to things well with different players stepping up.
“I thought we put ourselves in a good position and probably should have won last night. There were a couple of little things down the stretch we needed to attend to that we didn’t do as well with as we’d like so that was one that got away from us,” Joseph said.
“But it’s always good to at least split a road trip. We got tested a bit again today being a little bit undermanned but the guys responded pretty well and we were happy with that.
“It’s credit to the guys that they can adjust to situations. Their press caused us a few issues in the first half but once we understood what we had to do we were fine. It’s just a matter of adjusting on the run and it’s credit to the guys that they can do that.
“Oli Haste is a young, local guy who got some minutes for us and he hit three threes across the two games for us this weekend coming off the bench. That always helps to give some of the other guys a bit of a break as well as giving those younger guys some experience, so it was good.”
Shaquille Maharaj continues to show he will be a handy mid-season addition for East Perth ending up top-scoring in just 21 minutes with 16 points, six assists and three rebounds while hitting 4/8 from downtown.
Cameron Williams added 15 points for the Eagles with Jermaine Malie producing 12 points, Drew Williamson 11 to go with four assists and three steals, Ned Seery eight points and three assists, Dennis Tawhiti seven points and three boards, and Jordan Wellsteed seven points and five rebounds.
East Perth coach Colin Driscoll hopes that the Eagles learned plenty from the weekend with games against two of the top teams in the league, the Flames and Buccs.
“Last night the confusion was there with a new coach, a new system and trying to adapt things. The first half was very ordinary to horrible, but the second half was very heartening and we saw a bit of intensity from the lads,” Driscoll said.
I thought that we brought that through to the start of this game in the first half. But then I thought we reverted to form in the second half and tried to win it as individuals rather than as a team.
In life, you tend to learn the most lessons from failure and if we keep making the same mistakes, then that’s not very smart. They weren’t the words I used to the boys but you get the idea.
“The things we’ve learned from this weekend is that we have to play as a team because we don’t have superstars who can suddenly light it up for us.
“Last night we shot from 1/16 from the three-point line in the first half, which wasn’t what we were supposed to be doing, but in the second half we passed the ball around and shot 4/7. That’s a sign of what you can learn.”
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 90 defeated Bethanie Warwick Senators 87
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 93 defeated Mandurah Magic 88
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 87 defeated Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 84
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 101 defeated Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars 81
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 77 defeated CMTG East Perth Eagles 60
Print Sync South West Slammers 66 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 84
CMTG East Perth Eagles 83 lost to Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 103