THE Geraldton Buccaneers delivered when it mattered most on Saturday night at Warwick Stadium to dominate the fourth quarter against the Warwick Senators to claim Game 1 of their quarter-final series.
The teams had just played six days earlier at the same venue to close the regular season but it was a different level of intensity this time around to open the finals series while Caleb Davis returned for the Senators and both Marcus Alipate and DeAngelo Isby returned for the Buccaneers.
Throughout the regular season, both teams had shown that when they are up and firing they deserved to be considered genuine championship contenders, but the reality is one of them will be bundled out in the first round and up considerably disappointed with what they achieved in 2019.
And for three quarters, it was a tight, tense and physical finals encounter with a winner hard to pick despite the Senators being on top for much of the time after opening up the game with the first seven points.
They ended up leading 12-2 while steal leading 27-22 at quarter-time before Geraldton turned it around on the road to lead by four at the half. The Senators turned it back around in the third period to be up seven at three quarter-time.
However, it was all the Buccs from there and with 18-year-old soon-to-be Saint Mary’s college player Alex Ducas at the forefront of everything with support from Colter Lasher, Liam Hunt and then with Aaron Ralph hitting the dagger three-pointer, they came away with the 94-84 victory.
The wins means the Buccaneers are one win away from advancing to the semi finals with Game 2 at Geraldton’s Active West Stadium this Saturday night.
REDHAGE PRIMED TO LEAD HAWKS V HIRE’S FLAMES
WOLVES PLAYERS THRIVING ON RECEIVING GREATER FREEDOM
CREDIT TO UTLEY FOR SUNS RETURN TO FINALS ACTION
CREEK PROUD TO HEAD UP GIANTS REVIVAL
LAKESIDE MOVE EVERYTHING VIGOR HOPED IT WOULD BE
HIRE HAS PLENTY ON PLATE BUT FLAMES TITLE HIS FOCUS
BUCCS SUCCESS THE ULTIMATE DRIVING FORCE FOR HUNT
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
Two teams with genuine championship hopes in the Men’s SBL in 2019 began their quarter-final series at Warwick Stadium on Saturday night with the home team making a hot start as the Senators scored the game’s opening seven points.
A Cody Ellis triple and Ash Litterick layup then put Warwick up 12-2 and while the Buccs did draw level shortly before quarter-time after triples to Aaron Ralph and Marcus Alipate, the Senators led 27-22 after one with Ellis nailing another from long range.
Ellis drained another triple to keep Warwick up six early in the second period too but the Buccaneers kept coming and a three-point play from Liam Hunt, and impressive dunk from Alex Ducas after he worked his way through the defence had the visitors up one heading towards half-time.
Ducas then delivered another breakaway dunk after a steal and then Lasher drained a triple and the Buccs led 42-36, and still 44-40 by half-time.
Hunt came out inspired to open the second half with a triple and then an and-one play to put Geraldton up eight but the Senators responded well with a Justin King three, a Caleb Davis basket and then King-Wani Swaka Lo Buluk alley-oop as they assumed the lead.
Another Swaka Lo Buluk basket and then three-pointer from Davis saw the home team up five before they went into three quarter-time leading 65-58.
That put the pressure back on the Buccaneers to respond and it was Brayden Inger and Brendan Dinardo who sparked them early in the fourth term. Then with four minute to go, Ducas got to the rack again and scored to draw scores level at 78-apiece.
Ducas then drained a triple and Mat Wundenberg made a basket as Geraldton went up three with Hunt then hitting again from beyond the arc to stretch it to six. Aaron Ralph then hit a trademark three, the 889th in his 393rd game, and that was enough to secure the eventual 94-84 win.
Buccaneers coach Dayle Joseph knew it was always going to be a grind and that the team that lasted better over 40 minutes would prevail, and then ended up being his side.
“It’s one of those things where you always know the game’s going to have ebbs and flows when you are playing against top eight teams. I’m really proud of the guys for sticking together and we were able to stick to the game plan for the most part,” Joseph said.
“There were some sections there where things didn’t go right for us and we fumbled the ball, and turned it over, and credit to their pressure a little bit for that. But I was really proud for the guys who stood up to ensure we got the job done as we hoped for.”
Colter Lasher ended up top-scoring for Geraldton with him delivering 22 points and five rebounds while Liam Hunt continued to stand tall inside with 21 points, eight boards and three assists on shooting 8/12 from the floor, 2/3 from downtown and 3/4 from the free-throw line.
Brayden Inger added 10 points on 4/4 shooting with Aaron Ralph producing eight points, DeAngelo Isby six points, Mat Wundenberg four points and five rebounds, and Brendan Dinardo four points and three boards.
Then there was Alex Ducas producing 16 points, seven assists, three steals and two rebounds in 32 minutes.
Joseph couldn’t be happier that Ducas will be able to play out the season with the Buccs before leaving for St Mary’s to continue Australia’s rich history of providing players for the Gaels.
Having coached him for much of his life, Joseph certainly wasn’t surprised with what he produced but was great to see it when the Buccs needed him the most.
“That’s why he’s playing for Australia I guess at the under-19s and why he’s off to a pretty good college to start his career, but he has always been a good kid, Alex,” Joseph said.
“I’ve coached him since he was waist-high pretty much and he knows his basketball. He is one of those guys who can execute whatever you ask him to do it as well. He’s definitely a talent.”
Justin King ended the night with 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists with Cody Ellis delivering 18 points, three boards, three blocked shots and two assists, and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk 15 points and four rebounds.
Ash Litterick added nine points and five assists for the Senators, and Caleb Davis nine points and seven rebounds.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 81 lost to ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 89
Bethanie Warwick Senators 84 lost to Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 89
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 112 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 97
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 85 lost to Lakeside Lightning 89