DEALING with nervous players and trying to build their confidence might be the hardest job in coaching because there’s no textbook answers and that’s what Simon Parker is finding at Willetton Tigers but he remains upbeat about their chances to knock off the Warwick Senators.
The Tigers had quite the rollercoaster season right throughout 2019 with the gap between their best and worst basketball perhaps the most significant of any team in the league.
They looked like an unstoppable force when on a seven-game winning run which included victories over Lakeside, Perry Lakes, Kalamunda, Mandurah, Rockingham and Joondalup, all top eight teams, but then the very next night they became the only team to lose to East Perth in 2019.
They then limped into the finals having lost six of their last nine matches to end up in fifth position with a 13-9 record and with Parker not quite sure what he would get from his team any given night.
Then what he saw out of the blocks last Saturday night in Game 1 of the quarter finals against the Warwick Senators at Warwick Stadium almost made his blood boil.
The Senators scored nine of the game’s first 11 points and led by as much as 24 points late in the first half. There was plenty for Parker to not like but he was pleased with the way the Tigers responded they even hit the front during the fourth quarter when Laina Snyder took over.
They couldn’t quite finish the job and now Game 2 will be this Friday night at Wally Hagan Stadium, but Parker saw enough to take some heart from the contest.
What Willetton showed to Parker last Saturday night when they started to play well just before half-time and then during the third quarter was what they were capable of when everyone was switched on and up and going.
It was a complete contrast to what he saw early in the game and he knows they can’t afford to start poorly again on Friday night.
“I just think that if we can get a better start than that, and not give them a 20-point buffer and we gave them 20 points, then we should be alright,” Parker said.
“It wasn’t anything necessarily great that they were doing so if we can make them work harder in the first half and go into the back half of the game at least even and not playing catch up, then that’s when we can hopefully do well. There’s no way you can sustain giving up 20-point leads at this time of the year.
“The hard part is that you just have to stay positive with them no matter what’s going on and no matter how frustrating it might be. If they are nervous I can’t do much about that and it’s the same about how hard they play and stuff like that.
“But I just tell them that as long as they leave everything out on the court, then we’ll always be a chance of winning the game. We didn’t do that for 40 minutes, we did it for about 15 and that’s why we lost the game.”
While Willetton did fall 24 points during the first half on Saturday night in Game 1, they did respond with a 10-0 run before half-time and they had all the momentum with Snyder dominating in the low post midway through the fourth period.
They couldn’t quite keep it going to win but Parker does take heart from the performance knowing that if his team does what he wants from them for close to the full 40 minutes, that a win is a likely outcome.
“We can take a bit out of that second half for next week. And we are playing on a smaller court down at Cockburn which should be good and will be helpful for us. Our zone worked pretty well but we can’t play that for 40 minutes and I’m sure they’re going to work on that,” Parker said.
“But there’s definitely positives for us and it’s just the little things we have to tidy up. We missed too many shots, layups and free-throws from the ones we got. That’s the difference, they were making all of theirs and they didn’t keep shooting that well the whole night after they got a little bit comfortable.
“But we just have to make shots. We had Laina inside and she ended up hitting her stuff in the third quarter when she got hot, but everyone has to get firing. Emma Gandini has to hit shots, Desi has to make her layups and that takes a bit of pressure off, and then hopefully we don’t put them on the line 20 times in the first half. That was the difference.”
With Snyder one of the better inside the paint players in the league this year and then with Zoe Harper capable of coming in to have an impact too and some other promising young bigs, it’s an area parker feels they take better advantage of despite the Senators having Sam Roscoe, Bianca Villegas and Tayla Hepburn.
“They have big girls in terms of height but I don’t know they are the best defenders in the post. So that’s something we can go at them with a little bit with and they can try to double-team us, but if they do that we can kick the ball out to our shooters,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a focus but we’ll have a bit of everything to be honest. I won’t run stuff for one person, it’s about getting everyone involved and fitting in to get a shot at it. I think that’s the better way to go about it and it seemed to work there in the second half once they switched on.”
Willetton now doesn’t quite get home court advantage in Game 2 on Friday night with the unavailability of Willetton Basketball Stadium due to the on-going redevelopment to have it ready in time for the 2020 season.
That means it will be played at Wally Hagan Stadium and while it’s not their home court, Parker feels it might provide some advantages for the Tigers.
“It’s a tough one. But it’s a smaller court so that might be advantageous to us if we do stay with our zone for the majority of the game. It might not an advantage too, who knows. We’ll try and train there this week to get a bit familiar with it and it is a good basketball court,” he said.
“Obviously it would have been great had we played at home still during the finals but we are looking to the future now. It would have been good but it’s done it’s time and it’s time to move on and get the new building finished in there and ready for next year.”
It was an emotional evening two Sundays ago when the last ever game was played on Court 1 at Willetton Basketball Stadium, when the men’s clash between the Tigers and Perry Lakes Hawks was concluded after the mishap the previous evening.
It’s a court that Parker knows better than just about anyone and that’s why it brought to the surface plenty of emotions but he made sure he was part of the last piece of drama becoming the man to fix the broken floorboard to allow the game to be finished there on Sunday.
“It was a bit of an emotional night because I’ve coached there, played there and I helped build the grandstand and the sponsor’s boxes and all that sort of stuff when I was working for Cooper and Oxley,” Parker said.
“I have put a bit of time into it building it as much as playing and coaching, and even fixed some of the courts up and have obviously seen a lot of really good basketball players coming through. So I have a lot of memories about the place.
“It was then interesting fixing that floorboard so they could come back to play last game and I did have about 60 carpenters down on the floor telling me what to do. But whatever we had to do to get those boys to finish the game at the stadium, we were willing to do.”