THE Kalamunda Eastern Suns knew they were up against it once superstar guard Josh Braun rolled his ankle at the end of their last training session, but they knew one way or another they’d leave HBF Arena after playing the Joondalup Wolves knowing their fate for 2019 but that’s not the case.
Coming into the final round of the Men’s SBL season for 2019, the Eastern Suns, Goldfields Giants and Willetton Tigers were all locked on identical 13-12 records with the trio all scheduled to play on Saturday night.
That set up quite the exciting finish to the regular season with only two of those teams capable of making it but what we did know was that by the end of Saturday night, we’d have the answers.
However, that’s not the case with drama filling the night as the Willetton-Perry Lakes game at Willetton Basketball Stadium having to be postponed until Sunday night due to issues with the floorboards soon after the game started on Saturday.
The Giants took care of their business at home to the South West Slammers to win and book in their playoff appearance but now only one of the Eastern Suns and Tigers will make it.
With Kalamunda blown away in the second half on Saturday night at HBF Arena by the Wolfpack who put up 70 points to 38 after half-time against the wounded Suns, that means that if Willetton beats Perry Lakes, the Tigers are in.
But if the Hawks win, then it’s the Suns who reach the finals.
While Kalamunda now has the nervous wait, Joondalup’s impressive statement performance where they put up 125 points to win by 41heading into the finals sent a message that they are right on track for a fifth successive Grand Final appearance.
The win also secured the regular season championship for the Wolfpack as they finish the season with 20-6 record to claim first place.
GAVIN FIELD | 250 SBL GAMES
ROUND 20 SPOTLIGHT | REDBACKS END SEASON IN STYLE
ROUND 20 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
THINGS COULDN’T BE BETTER FOR DANIELS AT LAKESIDE
ROOKIE CAMIDGE DESPERATE FOR WOLFPACK SUCCESS
HIRE PROUD TO ENCOURAGE MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
ROUND 19 MEN’S SBL RECAP
STILL TIME FOR ELLIS’ SENATORS TO GET BACK ON TRACK
NENER PROVES COACHING CREDENTIALS IN TOUGH COUGARS ENVIRONMENT
SBL TRIO SHOULD BE ON RADAR OF NBL CLUBS
Saturday night was always set to be a defining night in the Men’s SBL season for 2019 with the Wolfpack a chance to secure top spot with a win following Lakeside’s Friday night defeat to the Rockingham Flames.
Then there was the fascinating battle for the seventh and eighth positions between the Eastern Suns, Goldfields Giants and Willetton Tigers with each of them playing around the same time on Saturday evening.
They were coming into the round on identical 13-12 records so everything was on the line but the for Eastern Suns, the job was always ahead of them not only coming up against a Wolfpack team playing for top spot but minus two of their gun players, Louis Timms and Josh Braun.
Between them this season, Timms and Braun have averaged 47.2 points, 18.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game so to say their absence left a significant hole would be a great understatement.
And given the depth, experience and quality the Wolves possess it was hardly the team you would want to take on undermanned.
While the Wolfpack did lead through the majority of the first half, the Suns had done well to stay in a degree of touch to only be trailing by four points at quarter-time and nine points at half-time.
But to keep it up for 40 minutes was always going to be a challenge for Kalamunda and that proved the case with Joondalup rising a gear or two in the second and producing the type of scintillating basketball which sees them deserving of top spot and to be right in the hunt for a fifth straight Grand Final appearance.
The Wolfpack piled on 43 points in the third quarter and then 27 in the last to blow the Suns away and win by 41 points to secure first place at the end of the regular season.
It was quite the impressive showing from Joondalup no matter who was or wasn’t out there for the opposition with Earnest Ross leading the way with 28 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals while shooting 9/16 from the field and 6/10 from deep.
Against the team he played with in 2018, Kevin Davis delivered 21 points, three assists, two steals and two blocks for the Wolves while Trian Iliadis delivered 19 points, five boards and three assists while hitting 5/7 from downtown.
Ridell Camidge added 17 points and four assists, Reece Maxwell 14 points, four rebounds and three assists, Sean Easther 10 points, Rob Huntington eight points and three rebounds, and Ben Ironmonger eight points, four boards, three assists and three steals.
Magnifying the absence of Braun for the Suns was the fact that it allowed the Wolves to put extra effort into locking down dynamic point guard Javion Blake who has been in some stunning form.
Despite that attention, he still produced 29 points, eight assists and four rebounds on 10/14 shooting.
Corey Easley continued to show he has plenty left in the tank and is willing to step up in the absence of Timms delivering 17 points and seven rebounds. Ryan Blanchett added 11 points and four boards, and Carl Aylett seven points and three rebounds.
Eastern Suns coach Mark Utley couldn’t have been prouder of the way his team has fought despite being continually missing key players to put themselves in the playoff hunt, but no Timms or Braun against the Wolfpack proved a step too far to cover.
“We try to preach resilience but it’s getting trying because Louis looks like he’s done for the year and he’ll go to Denmark in the off-season I believe and with five minutes to go before the end of training on Wednesday, Josh rolls his ankle on Javion,” Utley said.
“When you take out a player the quality of Josh Braun it’s going to be hard especially the first game without him because the players haven’t adjusted to him not being there and we obviously hadn’t trained without him. We are hoping he can play next but we couldn’t roll it this week.
“We’ve had scans and everything appears alright with it, it’s just an ankle sprain that will need some time to heal for him.”
After the Eastern Suns thought they would know their playoff fate Saturday night no matter what, good or bad, it’s now or nervous wait for Utley and his team to hope that Perry Lakes beats Willetton so they can book in a quarter-final rematch with the Wolves.
“I’ll firstly go and celebrate my birthday and then just wait and see. There’s nothing we can do now but we are really pleased our girls are in the finals. But we just have to wait and see,” Utley said.
“Willetton have been playing well with a small line-up but really someone like Brian Carlwell should have a career-night against them given how small they are.
“We just have to wait and see, but it surprises me that the floorboards can go and they don’t move the game to the opposition venue the next day. It will be an interesting one now.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 20
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 106 defeated Prestige Honda Cockburn Cougars 80
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 94 defeated Lakeside Lightning 73
Prestige Honda Cockburn Cougars 114 defeated CMTG East Perth Eagles 108
Mandurah Magic 102 defeated Bethanie Warwick Senators 92
Lakeside Lightning 110 defeated Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 84
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 94 defeated Print Sync South West Slammers 78
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 125 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 84
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Warwick Stadium 12.00pm
Willetton Tigers v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Willetton Basketball Stadium 5.00pm