THE two teams have been perennial contenders for much of the last decade so it’s only fitting that the star-studded and experienced outfits meet in Saturday night’s SBL Grand Final with the Joondalup Wolves battling the Geraldton Buccaneers.
Considering the Wolfpack and Buccs have been so closely connected in fighting over top positions at the end of the regular season and then during the playoffs over the past decade, it only feels right that they now get to play off against one another in a Grand Final.
It shapes as quite the contest too between Joondalup and Geraldton at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night with the 2019 championship on the line.
There’s certainly no shortage of motivation on either side with the Wolfpack now playing in a fifth consecutive Grand Final. The Wolves won the club’s third championship in 2015 but have now lost the last three Grand Finals to the Cockburn Cougars, Perth Redbacks and Perry Lakes Hawks.
The Buccaneers have booked a spot in their first Grand Final since 2014 when they lost to the East Perth as they attempt to win the club’s second championship and first since 2000.
Overall, the Wolves are playing in their eighth Grand Final and looking for a fourth championship while the Buccs are in their seventh Grand Final and shooting for a second title.
There is no shortage of motivation on either side setting the stage for what should be a tremendous contest to close the 2019 season.
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The Wolfpack and Buccaneers last met in the playoffs in the semi finals of 2017 when the series went to three games and it was the Wolves who prevailed to book a spot in what was at that point a third successive Grand Final.
That deciding Game 3 of that series would prove to be the last ever game held at the now demolished Joondalup Basketball Stadium.
While they haven’t clashed too often in the playoffs in recent years, the Wolves and Buccs have always been around the mark and that has included this year when the Wolfpack ended up finishing in first place at 20-6 with the Buccaneers just behind in third spot at 19-7.
Their first meeting for 2019 took place at HBF Arena and it was a nail-biting contest with the Wolves ending up winning 87-84 on their home floor. Then in the return clash in Geraldton, the Buccs opened a big lead early and then held on to win 85-82.
The fact that they’ve met twice in 2019 and have split the two games and gone 169-169 against one another says at all about what awaits in the Grand Final on Saturday night.
After finishing the season as regular season champions, the Wolves defeated both the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Perry Lakes Hawks in two games in the first two round of the playoffs to advance to the Grand Final.
By reaching a fifth straight Grand Final, they become just the second club in SBL history to do so with Perry Lakes playing in five in-a-row from 2001 to 2005.
After finishing in third position, the Buccaneers needed three games to beat the Warwick Senators in the quarter finals and then also took until Game 3 to overcome the Lakeside Lightning, winning the decider last Sunday at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
There is going to be fascinating match ups all over the floor, but much of the talk during the week has surrounded 18-year-old Buccs teenage sensation Alex Ducas.
Ducas is due to start his college life at Saint Mary’s this week and initially after he helped Geraldton into the Grand Final last weekend by producing 57 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists across the two games, he was not going to be available for the Grand Final.
But St Mary’s has given him the all clear to remain for the Grand Final and then fly to California on Sunday to start school on Monday giving the Buccs a significant boost against the Wolves.
It would have been tough for the Buccs back court to match the likes of Ben Ironmonger, Ridell Camidge, Trian Iliadis, Reece Maxwell and Seb Salinas without Ducas especially having seen imports Willie Conner and DeAngelo Isby leave during the season.
But with Ducas there and helped by Marcus Alipate and Brendan Dinardo, and the Buccaneers look a lot stronger in the guard department.
The small forward battle between Earnest Ross and Colter Lasher could very well be the pivotal contest of the night as Lasher looks to continue his stunning form with the Buccs against a former teammate last year in Ross who has been outstanding with the Wolfpack.
Then up front, you have Kevin Davis, Rob Huntington and Damian Matacz from the Wolves coming up against Liam Hunt, Mat Wundenberg and even Aaron Ralph from the Buccs with support from Brayden Inger.
Intriguingly, the Grand Final will be the 399th SBL game for Ralph and the 449th for Salinas.
Wherever you look there is plenty to get excited about when you look at this Grand Final and with neither side short on motivation either, it’s going to be quite the way to farewell the 2019 season.
MEN’S SBL GRAND FINAL
CHAMBERS FRANKLYN JOONDALUP CITY WOLVES (20-6, 1st) v QUADRIO EARTHMOVING GERALDTON BUCCANEERS (19-7, 3rd) – BENDAT BASKETBALL CENTRE, SATURDAY NIGHT 7.30PM