IT might have not been pretty but the Warwick Senators just needed to get back to the winner’s list somehow on Sunday afternoon against the South West Slammers, and they did that even though it took until late in the game for them to get on top at Warwick Stadium.
Going back five weeks ago and the Senators were the standout team in the competition. They beat the Lakeside Lightning impressively back on May 24 to complete a stunning nine-game winning streak which included wins over the Wolves, Flames, Hawks, Redbacks and Tigers.
Not only were they winning, but they were playing outstanding basketball at both ends of the floor with their size and length, and mobility despite that, shining through as they occupied top spot on the ladder at 10-2.
However, they have struggled since that win to the point where it didn’t matter how it looked, come Sunday afternoon at Warwick Stadium they just needed a win over the bottom placed Slammers no matter what.
The Slammers were coming into the game off their first win of the season too the previous Sunday at home to the Goldfields Giants so they arrived at Warwick Stadium feeling good about taking on a Senators team rocked by losing on the buzzer the previous night to the Cockburn Cougars.
It was then a tight game all afternoon with the Slammers even leading by three win three minutes to go. But from there, the Senators responded when their season needed it most to score 16 of the game’s last 22 points, including a 16-3 run, to come away with the crucial 89-82 victory.
Coming off a three-game losing streak, the Senators steady at 14-7 on the season with the win while for their brave effort, the Slammers are now 1-19.
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The recent struggles of the Senators to have lost five of their eight matches since their nine-game winning streak to go from top spot at 10-2 to starting to lose touch with the top four at 13-7 following Saturday night’s buzzer-beating loss to the Cougars heightened the importance of the home clash with the Slammers.
Senators coach Mike Ellis made sure his team knew he expected a swift response from his team from their showing against the Cougars the previous night.
“After last night, the thing for me about that game was that it was our effort that was probably what disappointed me more than anything. I think we just thought we would be able to take hold of the game when we needed to and we didn’t,” Ellis said.
“But we didn’t play our way. A guy knocks down a three-pointer off the backboard from in front two metres behind the arc to get the win, but we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first instance for that to happen.
“Full credit to Cockburn, they outplayed us and deserved to win. We didn’t deserve to win that and in actual fact had we won it, it would have been a real disappointment for Cockburn because they did really well and did a good job.
“And we didn’t, we didn’t match their intensity or do any of that. That’s why you lose games and yeah afterwards, I definitely let the guys know that they needed to bounce back today.”
While he is only 17 years of age, the absence of Wani Swaka Lo Buluk who had been holding down the point guard role impressively for the Senators has hurt but with him currently playing in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup and then set for college, Warwick do need to find a way without him even if he returns for the post-season.
Since a horror 60-point loss to the Wolves at HBF Arena, the Slammers have been producing their best patch of form for the season too culminating in the breakthrough win over the Giants last Sunday making the clash at Warwick Stadium all the more intriguing.
The Slammers then came out and turned the heat back onto the Senators further with four quick points to start the game and then managing to lead 10-2 after three minutes.
Despite big man Terrell Carter limited by foul trouble, South West stayed on top too and led 25-21 by quarter-time.
Another Tyler Livingston triple kept the Slammers up five and then James Goodlad, playing with Carter in foul trouble, made a bucket to keep the visitors on top by five.
Heading towards half-time, the Senators did manage an 8-0 to regain the lead and they did hold a narrow 45-42 edge at the main break.
Warwick threatened to run away with it to start the second half with a 7-0 run that saw them lead by nine but this Slammers side wasn’t going away even with Carter picking up his third foul and then a technical leading him to sit out until the fourth period.
But Michael Lay scored five quick points and then James Allen knocked down a three to tie scores up with four minutes left in the third period.
Warwick went into three quarter-time leading 62-61 but then Carter returned for the Slammers and made some big baskets inside. When Livingston then hit a three, the Slammers led 76-73 and the win was right on the cards.
But the Senators responded with a triple from Ngor Manyang before Justin King hit seven big points. That was enough to open a match-winning advantage for the Senators as they went on to escape with the 89-82 win.
It might have not been the brand of basketball that the Senators played during their nine-game winning run, but Ellis was a relieved coach after the win.
“We just needed to get a W and right the ship a little bit, it didn’t really matter how it looked. I think it’s been a confidence thing more than anything else,” Ellis said.
“We went on a real tear early on and were playing really well, and feeling good about ourselves but then kind of lost our way a little bit.
“Then when things aren’t dropping and other things happen, we’re just well below where we need to be right now. And that’s fine, you don’t want to be peaking right now but we need to start heading in that right direction because there’s not that much time left.”
Caleb Davis put in a big showing for the Senators finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Rob Anshila delivered 17 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes off the bench.
Justin King delivered 16 points, five rebounds and three assists for Warwick with Cody Ellis producing 11 points, nine assists and six boards, Ngor Manyang 10 points and two rebounds, Ash Litterick six points and four boards, and Jay Thwaites four points and three steals.
Michael Lay put in another standout point guard performance for the Slammers sending him another signal to play on in 2020, finishing with 29 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals while shooting 11/17 from the floor and 4/6 from downtown.
Tyler Livingston contributed well too with 21 points and four rebounds while Terrell Carter still had 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals despite his foul problems.
Brody England continued his impressive growth with 12 points and five rebounds while James Allen contributed five points off the bench in 13 minutes.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – HERITAGE ROUND
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 103 defeated Texture WA Perth Redbacks 77
Mandurah Magic 84 lost to ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 100
Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars 97 defeated Bethanie Warwick Senators 94
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 95 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 113
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 78 lost to Lakeside Lightning 88
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 87 defeated Willetton Tigers 74
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 98 defeated CMTG East Perth Eagles 88
Bethanie Warwick Senators 89 defeated Print Sync South West Slammers 82