THE Joondalup Wolves caught fire early to be up 15 and then again led by 10 with 1:30 left but the Perry Lakes Hawks soon were within one pass connecting of snatching the lead before the Wolfpack held on to win 81-77 in a cracking semi-final Game 1 at HBF Arena.
It’s hard to imagine a more mouth-watering semi-final battle than this one with the history between the two clubs and coaches, and the players on either side added in that extra spice from last year’s Grand Final where the Hawks pulled off the shock result to beat the Wolfpack.
And Game 1 certainly didn’t disappoint and had everything you’d want to open a semi-final series with a Grand Final berth on the line.
While the Wolves appeared to open match-winning leads on several occasions including being up 15 shortly before half-time and then again by double-figures late in the piece, the Hawks refused to go away even without Perth Wildcats championship winner Clint Steindl.
After Joondalup was up 77-67 with a Rob Huntington triple with two minutes to go and still leading by 10 some 30 seconds later, the Hawks threw a press out and forced three quick turnovers and suddenly it was a two-point ball game with Perry Lakes storming up the floor.
Two players were waiting on the wing but the game was over when Shawn Redhage’s pass went to where the shooter wasn’t and the Wolves claimed the heart-stopping Game 1 victory.
The series had all the hallmarks of being a cracker and it’s only fitting that after last year’s Grand Final, they now get to meet in a three-game series this time with a spot in the Grand Final on the line.
On their home floor, the Wolfpack made a blistering start and hit the first nine points of the game before leading by 15 points with four minutes left in the half.
But Perry Lakes then made its first comeback of the night, even missing Perth Wildcats sharpshooter Clint Steindl, and by half-time were only a point down on the back of a 16-2 run.
That set the stage for a tight and dramatic second half and Perry Lakes even took the lead briefly with four quick Brian Carlwell points. But within minutes the Wolves were back up by four after Trian Iliadis hit from downtown.
Iliadis hit four more quick points heading into three quarter-time to ensure the Wolves led 59-53 which became 62-53 when he drained another three to open the fourth term.
But Tevin Jackson kept Perry Lakes close and then Kyle Sovine nailed a triple to make it a one-point ball game once more. The Wolfpack then again pulled away thanks to Kevin Davis to lead by nine but again Perry Lakes responded, this time through Ben Purser to close to within five.
That’s when things really went up another level. Rob Huntington drained one from deep to put the Wolves up 10 with two minutes left and they still led by 10 with a Ben Ironmonger finger roll with 1:30 on the clock.
But Perry Lakes then went into a press up the floor forcing two quick turnovers from which Ryan Smith and Sovine hit three-pointers. Soon after Smith hit two free-throws and it was a two-point game with just over 30 seconds left.
Huntington would miss an open three when attempting to seal the game only for Smith to grab the board for Perry Lakes and on the break they had a great chance at the potential winning shot, but Redhage’s pass went to where he thought the shooter was, or should have been.
Instead it went out of bounds and Game 1 was done and it set the tone for a cracking rest of the series.
Wolves coach Ben Ettridge was glad to get the win at home to open the series and to have so many players step up to make a contribution.
“It’s always massive to play at home and to win in front of your fans. These guys come to play for their families and friends, and the supporters that come along,” Ettridge said.
“For a club like this, when you consider it was averaging 100 people in the stands 10 years ago to now see 5, 6 or 700 at a semi-final in this stadium is phenomenal. That makes it worthwhile for the boys who turn up week in and week out.
“The reason we got those three guys here was to put Robbie, Trian and even Seb in those positions to flourish. They make Benny Ironmonger’s shot better and I thought Ridell was outstanding in that first half, he set the tone and put them to the sword early.
“EJ had a quiet game on the scoreboard but he led us with deflections and did his normal job on the boards, and defended Redhage and Purser down the stretch. It was a total team effort, even the three boys who didn’t hit the floor and they helped us prepare for this game. Top to bottom, I’m very proud.”
By the end of the night not much separated the teams as is often the case when it comes down to the last seconds. The Wolves did shoot a little better at 44 per cent to 38 from the field while going 10/31 from deep opposed to the Hawks’ 12/29.
Joondalup did end up in front on the rebound count by six but they had 21 turnovers from which Perry Lakes scored 25 points from.
The Hawks also had 22 assists on 29 made field goals, but ultimately the energy it took for Perry Lakes to overcome double-digit deficits throughout the night took its toll.
While their full-court press late gave them a shot, ultimately the Wolfpack stood up for the four-point win leading into Game 2 at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night.
The Wolfpack got plenty of contributions across the night with Ridell Camidge catching fire in the first half and finishing with 15 points while Trian Iliadis took over in the second for 14 points.
Ben Ironmonger had an impressive night too for 15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots with Kevin Davis battling had inside with 13 points, 11 boards, three steals and two assists.
Seb Salinas chimed in with nine points and three assists, Rob Huntington seven points and seven rebounds, and Earnest Ross six points, eight boards, four assists and two steals.
Aside from a period before half-time and then the last minute or so of the game, Ettridge couldn’t find too much to not like about the Wolves’ effort, but he also knows Clint Steindl there for Perry Lakes changes a lot of things.
“I felt like we had two three-minute patches at the end of the first half and at the end of the game when they got on a bit of a run, and you’ve got to thrive in those pressure situations and they threw a press at us at the end which we weren’t quite expecting,” Ettridge said.
“They went out and they played hard, and you know that Ben Purser and Redhage are going to go at you for 40 minutes. We sort of caught a break I guess as well with Clint not being there but we did do a lot of things right for most of the game.
“They are a different beast when Clint Steindl is out there and we are fully expecting him to be on the court next week, and he will change the dynamic of the game.
“He can erase a 12-point lead off his own back or the gravity he gives Redhage more room in the middle. It will be a different ball game next week but I was pretty pleased with how we got going in the first half.”
Tevin Jackson was the man to step into the starting line-up for Perry Lakes in the absence of Clint Steindl due to back spasms late in the training week with the Perth Wildcats. Jackson provided eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.
Kyle Sovine came off the bench to top-score for the Hawks with 16 points and five rebounds including nailing 4/7 from three-point range.
Ben Purser added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists while Ryan Smith contributed 10 points, five boards and four assists, Mitch Clarke 10 points and three assists, Brian Carlwell nine points and eight rebounds, and Shawn Redhage seven points, eight boards, four assists and two steals.
Hawks coach Matt Parsons saw a lot to like in terms of the fight Perry Lakes showed and despite the fact they might not have played overly well for the most part and have Steindl to bring back in, the fact they still got so close was a tremendous positive.
“We certainly did have our chances, we really did. It’s difficult to dig yourselves out of a hole and in the playoffs you can’t afford to do that, and as a group we don’t except that,” Parsons said.
“But it happened twice tonight and the character was that we still gave ourselves a chance to win that game. We’ll take a lot away from that and both coaches will now go away, do their research and do the work on whatever they are going to do to make adjustments for next week.
“It was a good quality game and we’re ready for Game 2. We’re pretty happy with what happened in most parts of tonight and when we looked good, we looked very good. It’s just about making sure we string that out for a little longer and not allowing ourselves to get into those holes.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – SEMI FINALS GAME 1
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Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 81 defeated ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 77