Lakeside Lightning came from the clouds on Friday night with their youth coming up big in a stunning comeback win on an evening when the Willetton Tigers did plenty right on the official unveiling of the redeveloped Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The new Showcourt at the renovated venue came up a treat on the opening night of the West Coast Classic for 2020 and over 500 people came through for the occasion, and in the end they were treated to what we have all missed so far this year – a thrilling game of basketball.
Willetton worked their way on top early on their new home floor and would go on to lead by as many as 15 points, but Lakeside’s remarkably young side when you take out Michael Vigor and Jay Bowie refused to give in.
The Lightning started the fourth quarter still down four and then Lachie Evans made it six, but that’s when Lakeside made their charge beginning with a Rowan Mackenzie three-point play.
Bowie and Vigor then scored as well to give the Lightning the one-point lead and they would go on with the job from there with another Mackenzie layup, Bowie three-pointer and a sealing triple from captain Nick Palleschi.
There was still plenty for Willetton to take out of the contest given how well they played for three quarters and how young they were as well, but ultimately a comeback win like that was a perfect way to return to basketball action for the Lightning.
Lakeside coach Dave Daniels overall is just happy to have basketball action again.
“It’s just so good to be back playing,” Daniels said.
“There was several months where I didn’t think we’d be able to compete this year so I’m just so thankful that WA is such a safe place, that BWA and the SBL have done a great job of being patient but also putting together a competition. We are just super thankful to be out there competing again.
“Both teams really competed and it was ugly from the standpoint that nobody could hit a shot, and we both junked it up a little bit and I expected that.
“We have seven guys who were dressed tonight eligible for our 20s team so for several of them it’s their first taste of SBL level competition so they were nervous.
“They were just rusty and I’m sure they were too, but we kind of got lucky there towards the end and made some shots, and they couldn’t quite and we ended up getting there in the end.”
With such a young side, Lakeside needed Michael Vigor and Jay Bowie to stand tall, and the two veterans did. Vigor finished with 21 points and nine rebounds on 10/16 shooting while Bowie had 14 points and nine boards.
Rowan Mackenzie showed that he has continued his growth with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists with Kaidyn Malseed delivering 11 points, six boards and five assists.
Captain Nick Palleschi produced eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists too for Lakeside, Josh Davey five points and seven boards, and Byron Pearson five points and four rebounds.
After the game, Daniels couldn’t have been happier with the output he got from every player that pulled on the Lakeside singlet on the opening night of the West Coast Classic.
“Both young guards were really good. Kaidyn made some big plays and after he hit the big shot, he made just as big a play where he stole the pass and that was really significant,” he said.
“Nick Palleschi led us in rebounding too with 11 so both of those guys were just really tough. Jay might not have shot the ball extremely well but kept fighting and had some big rebounds down the stretch. Everyone chipped in and did a bit of everything.
“I’m just so thankful that this competition has been put together because it provides so good development. A couple of guys will play tomorrow that didn’t play today so we’ll keep mixing it up, but Josh Davey showed what a fantastic player he is going to be.
“Josh is going to be an absolute animal as we move forward in the similar vein of Jarrad Prue, but he did hit a three to separate himself.”
There was plenty for Willetton coach Stephen Black to walk away feeling positive about too as the Tigers now prepare to travel to Kalamunda on Saturday night.
Connor Mincherton top-scored for Willetton with 14 points and four rebounds with Damien Scott contributing 12 points, six boards and five assists, Andrew Black nine points and four rebounds, Lewis Thomas eight points and eight boards, and Hayden Noordhoek eight points and five rebounds.
Lakeside now backs up on Saturday night by taking on the Geraldton Buccaneers in a rematch of last year’s thrilling semi-final series where the Buccs prevailed by winning Game 3 at Lakeside on the way to claiming the 2019 SBL championship.
That’s not on Daniels’ mind as he looks to the clash, though, with so many unknowns surrounding this West Coast Classic.
“It’s crazy, I don’t really even know who they have and we are going to have a different team to tonight,” Daniels said.
“It’s something completely different and I’m not worried about that, we are just going to focus on getting better every day and if we end up with more points on the scoreboard than they do, that’s good.
“And when the boys play, I expect them to play like a Lakeside player which is hard, fast and together. I’d still be proud as long as we are building our culture and playing the Lakeside way because it’s deeper than the scoreboard.”
Not only did COVID-19 ultimately cancel the 2020 SBL season and lead to this upstart West Coast Classic in its place, but the pandemic has been felt by everyone all round in the world in one way or another.
Daniels does feel blessed to be where and his family are to live in Western Australia now and be part of Lakeside, but in the bigger picture what COVID-19 has done is open everyone’s eyes to so many different things beyond just basketball and what’s directly in front of them.
“There’s been times that we have missed our families but they are actually doing well back home even though my father-in-law did test positive for COVID-19. He was asymptomatic, though, so he has been fine,” Daniels said.
“Other than that, we have found such a home here at Lakeside in this community that our relatives and families are back home, but this is such a family for myself, my wife and our kids.
“During this time we have pulled together as a community and it has been really neat to see everyone pull together even when there was no basketball. My wife and I morphed into more of a chaplain role so that was great and our team continued to meet on Zoom two or three times a week.
“It’s actually been really enriching for me. I love basketball but it’s about more than that and it’s about the community, and culture that we have on our team. That was one of the best things I saw because even when we weren’t playing, the relationships were still there and still strong.”
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – MEN
Joondalup Wolves 98 defeated Perth Redbacks 80
Willetton Tigers 67 lost to Lakeside Lightning 75
East Perth Eagles 87 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 84
South West Slammers 66 defeated Mandurah Magic 62
Perry Lakes Hawks 85 defeated Warwick Senators 83
Warwick Senators v Goldfields Giants – Warwick Stadium 7pm
Lakeside Lightning v Geraldton Buccaneers – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7pm
Mandurah Magic v Perth Redbacks – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7pm
Rockingham Flames v Cockburn Cougars – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Willetton Tigers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Goldfields Giants – Bendat Basketball Centre 12pm
East Perth Eagles v Geraldton Buccaneers – Herb Graham Leisure Centre 12pm