EVEN without Josh Braun and Louis Timms, the Kalamunda Eastern Suns were never going to hand their scalp to the Joondalup Wolves in the quarter finals and that’s how it panned out even with the Wolfpack winning Game 2 at Ray Owen Sports Centre on Saturday night.
The Eastern Suns had done a tremendous job to reach their first playoff appearance since 2012 under new coach Mark Utley in 2019, but then entering the post-season without two of their absolute guns in Braun and Timms was going to make things a challenge.
Even more so considering their opponents were a Wolfpack team who again claimed the regular season championship and who has played in the past four Grand Final in the Men’s SBL.
But the Suns came out all guns blazing last Saturday night in Game 1 at HBF Arena to lead by half-time before the Wolves steadied to come away with the 112-97 victory.
While Braun couldn’t shake off an ankle injury again to play on Saturday night at Ray Owen Sports Centre, the Suns were keen to put on a show in front of their home fans who were watching their men play in a final on their home court for the first time in seven years.
Once again Kalamunda deserves credit for continuing to fight hard the entire night, but with the Wolves limiting the damage from Suns superstar Javion Blake, their own depth of firepower shone through.
The Wolves went on to score an impressive 113-84 in a hostile environment with a packed house at Ray Owen Sports Centre giving the Suns enthusiastic support.
The Wolfpack now advance to yet another semi-final appearance and it’s a mouth watering Grand Final rematch with the Perry Lakes Hawks.
PLENTY OF BITE LEFT IN SBL’S ULTIMATE COMPETITOR
QUARTER FINALS GAME 2 SPOTLIGHT | HAWKS PREVAIL IN TOUGH BATTLE WITH FLAMES
STRONGER TEAM CHEMISTRY KEY TO BUCCS OF 2019
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1 MEN’S SBL WRAP
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 http://bit.ly/GregHireFlames
BUCCS SUCCESS THE ULTIMATE DRIVING FORCE FOR HUNT
It might have been first against eighth in the quarter-final match up and with the Eastern Suns still without Louis Timms as they had been for the last seven games of the regular season and then losing Josh Braun in the last game of the regular season, it was going to take a remarkable effort from the Suns to knock off the Wolfpack.
They sure gave that quite a crack in Game 1 at HBF Arena last Saturday to deliver an impressive first half and still lead at half-time before the Wolves hit back to win by 15 points despite the remarkable 43-point outburst by Javion Blake.
There was plenty of excitement surrounding the Suns’ men hosting their first final since 2012 then on Saturday night at Ray Owen Sports Centre and a packed house came out in support as they tried to force the Wolves to a Game 3.
Despite the Wolves hitting the game’s first five points through Earnest Ross and Ridell Camidge, when Javion Blake drained a three to open Kalamunda’s account the place came to life.
Evergreen veteran Corey Easley then showed he was capable of stepping up in the absence of Louis Timms by draining a three and the Suns had a 6-5 lead. But that would be their only lead of the night.
Even though Easley drained another triple two minutes later, two inside buckets from Kevin Davis had ensured the Wolves’ three Americans were all up and firing early.
Camidge hit again from deep to see the visitors go up seven midway through the quarter and that soon became 10 when Ross again hit from downtown on the floor he scored 31 points in a half on back in Round 5.
The Wolves ended up leading 31-18 by quarter-time and despite four quick Kalamunda points from Blake to open the second period, the Wolfpack continued to have the answers starting with a Seb Salinas layup.
Consecutive Ben Ironmonger three-pointers put Joondalup up 14 heading towards half-time before Rob Huntington scored six quick points made up of a four-point play and a jumper. Ironmonger then hit another from downtown as did Camidge and the Wolfpack would lead 63-45 at the half.
Davis started the second half like a man possessed with three straight baskets rocking the rim but the Eastern Suns could never be excused of not continuing to fight and Easley and Carl Aylett both knocked down threes in response.
While the Wolves remained in control the rest of the way, the Suns never gave in either and the margin never got beyond the final 29-point margin with Joondalup winning 113-84 to advance to the semi finals against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
Wolfpack coach Ben Ettridge was pleased with the overall team defence to restrict the influence of Javion Blake in Game 2 but he was also happy to have been pushed in the first round as well.
“A key thing was containing Javion but not give up as much to the other kids who scored in double-figures last week when Blanchett and Aylett really hurt us,” Ettridge said.
“They played well tonight but I think we were a bit more connected on defence and had five guys defending the ball rather than just two so we locked in off the ball.
“All credit to them, they pushed us and that’s what you want. You are in the playoffs to play the best of the best and this was a good test for us.”
Once again it was the contributions across the board that was key for the Wolves even in the absence of Trian Iliadis through work commitments.
Earnest Ross put up 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists to give him 61 points on his two trips to Kalamunda this season.
Not only did Ben Ironmonger spend a lot of the night guarding Javion Blake, but he also had 16 points and three assists including hitting 4/6 from three-point range.
Kevin Davis finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals with Ridell Camidge contributing 15 points, two assists and two steals, Seb Salinas 11 points and four rebounds, and Rob Huntington 10 points, four boards, four assists and two blocked shots.
Javion Blake still delivered a strong showing for Kalamunda with 26 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals on shooting 10/16 from the floor.
Carl Aylett showed he has a bright future with 16 points and five rebounds with 4/7 shooting from downtown while Corey Easley showed he has plenty of game left with the 289-game SBL veteran producing 15 points, nine boards and four assists while hitting 5/9 from deep.
Ryan Blanchett added 12 points and three rebounds for Kalamunda, Logan Viskovich seven points and captain, and the club’s first ever 200-game men’s SBL player, Jono Diaz six points and four rebounds.
Despite the fact that the Eastern Suns took on the Wolves minus Louis Timms and Josh Braun, they weren’t afraid to take it right up to the Wolfpack and Ettridge gives Mark Utley and his team great credit for how hard they were able to fight against the odds.
“We’d already played them in that last game of the season so a lot of our Game 1 strategies and match ups were in play from that so this was almost like the third game of the series even though it could have gone on to Game 3,” Ettridge said.
“We know that Mark is a quality coach and he’s played against us now in five playoff series firstly at Rockingham and now at Kalamunda so we know each other inside out. They did a great job and I think if Javion had been here for the whole season he’d be MVP of the league, he’s a tough cover.
“Then you can just see the benefit that they’ve had from the last three or four years of the local kids playing legitimate minutes for a number of seasons. They get out and they can play in this league now so if you get the right people around that group and they can do some good things.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS GAME 2
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 89 defeated Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 86 (Perry Lakes wins 2-0)
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 75 lost to Bethanie Warwick Senators 83 (Series tied 1-1)
Lakeside Lightning 102 defeated Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 84 (Lakeside wins 2-0)
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 84 lost to Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 113 (Joondalup wins 2-0)
QUARTER FINALS GAME 3
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Active West Stadium 12.00pm