FROM the moment the 2019 Grand Final got underway the Geraldton Buccaneers looked a team possessed and that remained the case over 40 minutes as they beat the Joondalup Wolves 92-80 to claim a first championship in 19 years.
From the first tip, Buccs star Colter Lasher stormed down to throw down a slam and that set the tone for the evening.
Lasher was instrumental in setting up the win with 15 of his 23 points for the game coming in the first half when they set up the win.
His partner in crime and son of a gun, Liam Hunt, was a monster inside all night too and between them they had the Buccaneers up by as much as 18 points late in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack weren’t playing in a fifth successive Grand Final for nothing and they did produce a spirited fight back in the fourth quarter sparked by Trian Iliadis and Rob Huntington.
When Ridell Camidge hit a three it was a seven-point game, but that was as close as it got with Marcus Alipate, Hunt, teen sensation Alex Ducas and then ultimately Lasher slamming the door on the Wolves and delivering the Buccs the championship with the 12-point victory.
Having been perennial contenders virtually every year since winning a championship in 2000, the Buccs are back on top of the WA basketball world with the club’s second title.
It was no surprise to see Liam Hunt named Grand Final MVP for his 24 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots as he now joins his dad, Dan, as championship winners with the Buccaneers.
After the game, it was an emotional and incredibly proud Hunt soaking up the championship triumph.
“This just means the world to me, it really does,” Hunt said.
“The amount of people that deserve this happiness right now, the list goes on and on from the board to our coaches to our supporters and fans who are amazing, to the bench guys who don’t get one minute but train with us every single day. This is just the best thing ever, man.
“For guys like Mat and Ralphy, what else can you do but want to win for them. I don’t know if this is going to be Mat’s last game or not, but what a hell of a legacy he will leave if it is and the same with Ralphy. I’m just so proud.”
It will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Wolves who became just the second team in league history to play in five consecutive Grand Finals. But unfortunately for Ben Ettridge and his men, it’s a fourth consecutive loss following the 2015 championship.
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JOSEPH PROUD FIGHTING BUCCS HAVE REACHED GRAND FINAL
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SEMI FINALS GAME 2 SPOTLIGHT | WOLFPACK PROVE TOO STRONG FOR HAWKS
On top of Liam Hunt’s standout performance for the Buccs, Colter Lasher wasn’t far behind and not only did the pair battle out for Grand Final MVP honours, they both deserve to be high up on voting for MVP on the entire season.
Lasher ended the Grand Final with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists on shooting 10/15 from the field.
Aaron Ralph, in the 399th game of his remarkable career, delivered four more huge threes to give him 907 over those 399 games to remain clear second all-time and finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
Marcus Alipate had a good game as point guard too with 12 points while Brayden Inger delivered nine points and three rebounds, and Alex Ducas eight points, six boards and four assists as he now departs on Sunday morning to begin college life at Saint Mary’s.
Buccs coach Dayle Joseph returned to the coaching chair this season and certainly had his fair of hurdles along the way including the departure of imports Willie Conner and DeAngelo Isby, and illnesses to Inger and Alipate, but ultimately he made all the right moves to deliver Geraldton a title.
“I’m still trying to come to terms with what we’ve actually achieved. We sort of proved over the last six games against the Senators and Lightning that guys have pulled together pretty well and shown some great character, and pushed through some of the issues we’ve had during the year,” Joseph said.
“It’s not only the two imports going, but we had some illness during the year with Brayden and there was one stage he might have even been leaving us to go to college so we were juggling a few things around that.
“Then Marcus came down ill when he came back from Tonga which wasn’t good timing so there’s a lot of things we’ve had to work through but credit to the guys. They knew what was at stake, they got this far and weren’t going to let it slip.”
Rob Huntington couldn’t have done more to try and lift the Wolfpack to the championship having now been part of all five Grand Finals in this remarkable run. He finished the night with 21 points, five rebounds and two assists on shooting 9/15 from the field and 2/4 from deep.
Earnest Ross was a frustrated man much of the night but still put up 16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals while Ben Ironmonger ran the team and came up with big baskets for 15 points, three boards and two assists.
Ridell Camidge put up 12 points and three rebounds for the Wolfpack while Trian Iliadis contributed nine points and six boards, and captain Seb Salinas three points, three boards and three assists in the 449th match of his incredible career.
It will prove to be the 385th and last game in another distinguished career with Wolves big man Damian Matacz moving into retirement.
The Grand Final got off to the perfect start for the Buccs with Colter Lasher throwing down a dunk from tip-off. He then scored again and Aaron Ralph drained a triple for them to lead 7-2.
Liam Hunt warmed up inside for the Buccaneers but the Wolves steadied into the game as well and four-point plays to Ben Ironmonger and Ridell Camidge saw them draw level, and then trail by just a point when Camidge hit another three on the quarter-time buzzer.
The Buccs were up five midway through the second term when the sickening incident of the night took place. Driving to the hoop, Wolves guard Reece Maxwell fell hard and he suffered a horrific looking lower leg injury.
Understandably, players from both teams were shocked as Maxwell was wheeled from the floor. Bravely, he returned to the bench in the second half.
Following the incident, the Buccs made an 8-0 run but that was answered with consecutive threes for the Wolves from Rob Huntington and Seb Salinas to keep it a four-point game.
But heading towards half-time Geraldton got threes from Lasher and Hunt, and a bucket from Ralph to lead 47-37 at the break.
The Wolves hit the first four points of the second half but when Ralph knocked down three from long range in the space of less than three minutes, the Buccaneers maintained their advantage.
It even grew to 18 when Brayden Inger hit a three and despite Earnest Ross hitting from deep just before three quarter-time, Geraldton still led by 13.
The Wolves knew it was now or never in terms of making a run and they did manage to score eight straight points at one point of the fourth term to go from being down 15 to down seven. It was Iliadis and Huntington that sparked the run and then Ross scored to give them hope.
Hunt responded with an and-one play but Camidge answered with a three to make it still a seven-point game with five minutes to go.
But the Buccaneers had the answers and ultimately it was a bomb from deep by Alipate that shut the door on the Wolves to push the advantage back to double-figures.
The Buccs cleared the bench in the finish to the joy of their fans with Aidan Gardiner and Joseph Iaria hitting the floor and it was party time for the raucous Geraldton supporters in attendance and surely back home.
MEN’S SBL GRAND FINAL 2019
QUADRIO EARTHMOVING GERALDTON BUCCANEERS 92 (Hunt 24, Lasher 23, Ralph 15)
CHAMBERS FRANKLYN JOONDALUP CITY WOLVES 80 (Huntington 21, Ross 16, Ironmonger 15)
Grand Final MVP: Liam Hunt