The Warwick Senators had a lot of fun on Saturday night in their West Coast Classic home opener with the players and crowd alike having a great time at the expense of the Goldfields Giants, but that’s what having basketball back is all about.
To be able to play again on your home floor and to thrill your fans is what makes basketball so special and after there were some real concerns we wouldn’t get any action in 2020, to now be able to have that through the West Coast Classic is why Senators coach Mike Ellis is glad it’s happening.
While his experienced players Justin King, Caleb Davis and Cody Ellis showed the way, what most excited Ellis about the night was to give a 15-year-old like Ethan Elliott the chance to get out on the floor, to get a vocal crowd behind him and to take that energy into quite the exciting debut.
In the end, the Senators shook off Friday night’s two-point road loss to the Perry Lakes Hawks to get back to Warwick Stadium and to breakaway in the first half on the back of four triples from King.
Once the Senators got on top, they didn’t take the foot off the gas and the remarkably young and inexperienced Giants team were thrown to the wolves.
They will learn plenty from the experience and the debutants and young players from Goldfields will get better as the season rolls on. But on Saturday night, it was tough going and the Giants ended up with 33 turnovers and also shot just 1/19 from three-point territory.
Warwick went on to win the game 98-50 including piling on 33 points to six in the fourth quarter.
That was despite losing point guard Corban Wroe to a hamstring injury with Ash Litterick already sidelined, but really coach Mike Ellis was just happy to be back playing and would take that despite it not being perfect over no basketball at all.
“The best thing that Basketball WA and the SBL did was to put this competition on. Obviously given the circumstances it’s not ideal but I think it’s the best thing that could have been done,” Ellis said.
“It has already been 12 months, if we didn’t play this at all by the time we play SBL which will be NBL1 West next year, that’s going to be a long time. The problem that you’ve got and I’m already feeling it is that we’ve only been able to train once a week, and for a while there it was only 50 minutes.
“So we have one session a week and then have a double-header in Round 1 and Corban does his hamstring. He’s not going to be the first one that does that, a lot of other guys will get hurt because they haven’t got that work behind them so that is the hard part.
“In the short preparation time that we’ve had and I mean everybody, not just us, it’s going to be an issue. I’ve also got Ash who has hurt his foot and we sure could have used him on the glass. But it’s still the best thing that could happen to be playing and it’s going to be a decent comp.”
Justin King finished with 20 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists for the Senators with Caleb Davis contributing 15 points, seven boards, four assists and four steals, Ngor Manyang 11 points and six rebounds, and Cody Ellis 10 points, eight assists and six boards.
But it was the young Senators who were exciting with Ethan Elliott producing 12 points and four rebounds, Jarrod Hodge eight points, Isaac Campion seven points and Alier Riak six to go with four rebounds and two steals.
“For me this competition was about playing your guys and giving some of your younger guys the chance to play at this level and having a look at them,” Ellis said.
“To me the highlight of the game was getting those young kids in and giving them that experience. We had two guys that debuted and played which was great and Ethan is only 15. He is a scary talent and he’s a good kid, and very poised for his age.
“The best thing, though, was the crowd because they got into it and that lifted Ethan, and the whole team. It is great to be out on the floor again, but I kind of enjoyed not doing it there for a little while I have to admit. But then I started to get itchy feet and was getting bored and wanted to get back playing.”
It was a tough season-opening night for the Giants, but when you take away Josh Jones, Corey Hammell and Kyle Tipene who they had recruited for 2020, and the loss of Dave Humphries, Brandon Holloway and Daniel Forlano from 2019, and it was always going to be tough.
The positive is that the young players that are now getting the chance to play meaningful minutes they might have never otherwise got to do so, and they will improve rapidly as a result.
There were still some encouraging signs on Saturday night despite the result with Mayo Malek (20 points, four rebounds) and Majier Garang (eight points, 16 boards) providing an impressive inside combination.
Damon Ballantyne ended the night with 13 points and four rebounds, Jerome Reid five points, Riley Duncan two points and three assists, and Sam Morrow two points.
But for Ellis, he will certainly be going out to win every game in the West Coast Classic just because that’s his competitive nature, but at the same time he has an eye on the bigger picture of it all.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t step into every game and want to win it because that’s just not me. But I also know that this season technically has an asterisk next to it so yes I would like to win it, but I’m not going to do that by recruiting or playing players or not developing young players,” Ellis said.
“Going to recruit anyone for this competition would just be dumb. But the younger kids getting the opportunity to play and then the guys who play for this season without having to miss a whole year is going to be so important.
“I can guarantee that a number of players throughout the league wouldn’t play again next year if they didn’t have this because they wouldn’t be able to get back up again.
“It’s going to be a decent comp, there are still some good teams around and to me what it shows is the depth in basketball in this state where we don’t have to rely on imports.
“If you have a good junior programs and some pathways for the kids, that is what it’s about and this is where you can actually see it. That’s what I’m most proud about, our guys being able to do that.”
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 98 defeated Goldfields Giants 50
Lakeside Lightning 77 defeated Geraldton Buccaneers 69
Mandurah Magic 72 lost to Perth Redbacks 83
Rockingham Flames 83 defeated Cockburn Cougars 74
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 68 lost to Willetton Tigers 96
Perry Lakes Hawks v Goldfields Giants – Bendat Basketball Centre 12pm
East Perth Eagles v Geraldton Buccaneers – Herb Graham Leisure Centre 12pm