HOW the teams would actually look on the court and the personnel they’d have created great intrigue ahead of Round 1 of the West Coast Classic, but what became clear over the weekend was how excited everyone was to have basketball back in Western Australia.
The SBL season for 2020 was on the verge of getting underway with the pre-season Blitz having been run and won back in March. But then COVID-19 fully got into gear and the SBL season was initially postponed, and ultimately cancelled altogether.
But as time moved on and restrictions began to be lifted across WA, it became clear that there would be a possibility to get a competition of some sort up and running, and that’s where the West Coast Classic has come from.
It still features all 12 of the teams albeit they have significantly different rosters than they would have for the SBL season back in March as they now compete across nine weeks, playing one another once to determine the final four to play in a finals weekend from September 25-27.
The opening round of the West Coast Classic got underway on Friday night and the women’s action saw the Joondalup Wolves start up with a 75-49 victory against the Perth Redbacks at HBF Arena.
The Mandurah Magic went down to Eaton Recreation Centre and defeated the South West Slammers 64-56 while the Lakeside Lightning spoiled the unveiling of the new Willetton Basketball Stadium, beating the Willetton Tigers 63-52.
The Warwick Senators won a high quality affair 82-77 against the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre, and then the Kalamunda Eastern Suns prevailed 83-66 against the East Perth Eagles at Herb Graham Leisure Centre.
Then on Saturday night, the Perth Redbacks bounced back to beat the Mandurah Magic 79-46 at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre. The Rockingham Flames opened up their season beating the Cockburn Cougars 84-68 at Mike Barnett Sports Complex, and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns beat the Willetton Tigers 83-69.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – WOMEN’S ROUND 1
JOONDALUP WOLVES 75 defeated PERTH REDBACKS 49
The Joondalup Wolves looked to be one of the teams to beat for the SBL season back in March and little has changed for the West Coast Classic based on Friday night’s performance against the Perth Redbacks.
The Lady Wolfpack opened the West Coast Classic season by hosting the Redbacks and did so with plenty of familiar faces to their opponents with former Redbacks coach Charles Nix at the helm while Nes’eya Williams, Mikayla Pirini and Kayla Steindl are all former Perth players.
The Redbacks actually started strongly and did lead by six points early on in the contest, but the home team eventually worked their way on top by the end of the first quarter.
The Wolves pulled away further in the second quarter by holding the Redbacks to just six points to be up 38-18 at half-time.
The Lady Wolfpack would go on to lead by as much as 28 points throughout the night to end up winning by 26 points.
Chelsea Belcher only played 15 minutes off the bench, but top-scored with 15 points and three rebounds including hitting 3/5 from three-point territory.
Amber Land also produced 13 points, six rebounds and four steals with Isabelle Miotti contributing nine points and five rebounds, Mikayla Pirini eight points, three boards and three assists, Nes’eya Williams seven points, six rebounds and four steals, and Laniesha Paddon seven points.
The Redbacks did win the rebounding battle with 52 to 44 on the night with Maddie Allen collecting 12 of them despite only two points on 1/12 shooting.
Jess Jakens top-scored with 11 points to go with five rebounds and two assists with Brooke Malone impressive on debut with the 16-year-old scoring 10 points.
Shenae Hartree also scored seven points for the Redbacks, Briana Bailey five (five rebounds, three assists), Sarah Allen three, Denielle Lipscombe three (four assists), Chanah Crugnale three (four rebounds), Ella Thornton-Elliott three and Brooke Rebel two (three rebounds).
SOUTH WEST SLAMMERS 56 lost to MANDURAH MAGIC 64
Two teams who lost plenty of experience from the anticipated start of the SBL to the West Coast Classic and will be relying on local youth locked horns at Eaton Recreation Centre.
It turned out to be a tight affair throughout the evening as well with nothing more than 10 points separating the two teams throughout the game before the Mandurah Magic prevailed over the South West Slammers 64-56.
The Slammers deserved to be feeling good about what the SBL season held for 2020 for them with the recruitment of Mari Stewart, Tea Charlton and Vanessa Michael on top of the retention of Brittni Montgomery.
However, none of those four were available for the opening of the West Coast Classic leaving a vastly smaller and experienced Slammers line-up despite the presence of Kate Fielding and Courtney Bayliss who wouldn’t have been there for the SBL.
As for the Magic, they looked like being a real contender for the SBL season with the return of Anita Brown, recruitment of Nyilah Jamison-Myers and with Carly Boag, Emma Klasztorny and Casey Mihovilovich among those who now aren’t there.
Captain Rachel Halleen also didn’t play this weekend so the Magic went potentially from having a loaded, experienced group to possibly the youngest in the West Coast Classic.
It meant it was a fascinating battle on Friday night with the Slammers narrowly leading by three points at quarter-time and by four at the half.
The Magic were able to turn the tide in the third quarter with 23 points to 16 and they were then able to close the deal with 15 points to 10 in the fourth to end up claiming the eight-point victory.
One player benefitting from the increased role is Olivia Bassett-Scarfe who delivered 17 points and seven rebounds for Mandurah while Jaide Britton produced 16 points, three boards, three assists and two steals.
Kasey Miegel also had 12 points and five rebounds, Kelly Bailey seven points and 11 rebounds, Tarsha Fletcher six points and 10 rebounds, and Rachel Pettit six points, five boards and five steals.
Zara Black top-scored for the Slammers with 13 points and six rebounds with Skye Palmer adding nine points and seven boards, Shannon Verhagen nine points and three rebounds, Kate Fielding nine points and five boards, and captain Ebony Bilcich seven points and four rebounds.
The daughter of a legend Javene Fitch also showed encouraging signs with six points and two rebounds.
WILLETTON TIGERS 52 lost to LAKESIDE LIGHTNING 63
It might not be for much longer that Ash Isenbarger is without a home in the WNBL if Friday night’s performance is anything to go by as she opened the West Coast Classic by putting the Lakeside Lightning on her back in an opening night win over the Willetton Tigers.
Isenbarger, formerly Grant before marrying fellow Lakeside star Jack, has certainly already proven over the years she is up to playing at the WNBL level, and she showed teams might be missing out by not signing her for the 2020-21 campaign based on Friday night’s showing.
It was both the first night in the West Coast Classic and also the first official top level match held on the Showcourt at Willetton Basketball Stadium, but in the end it proved a night that Isenbarger and Lakeside would have been delighted with under new coach Steve Bezant.
All teams are going to have a new look in the West Coast Classic to what they would have expected to put out there in the SBL had it started four months ago, and neither the Tigers nor Lightning had an import available on Friday or are expected to over the next 10 weeks.
That meant that experienced local players like Isenbarger are at an even higher premium and she produced an outstanding performance for the Lightning to finish with 26 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals on shooting 9/15 from the field and 7/8 from the foul line.
She was instrumental in Lakeside’s eventual 63-52 victory that spoiled the unveiling for Willetton of the redeveloped Willetton Basketball Stadium, but that opening still went smoothly for the Tigers with more than 500 fans in attendance on the evening.
It was an understandably scrappy opening to the game but Lakeside did work on top early with the game’s first seven points with Willetton not getting on the board until a layup from point guard Hayley Winter halfway through the opening period.
But Isenbarger responded again inside with two points more and Lakeside led 9-2, and still 13-8 by quarter-time.
Isenbarger then opened the second period with a three-pointer to make it 16-8 before Desiree Kelley responded in kind for the Tigers.
The Lightning remained in control by half-time, though, leading 32-17 at the break but Willetton then fired up in the third starting with back-to-back threes from Kelley.
The comeback wasn’t quite to be, though, with the Lightning having all the answers and despite Imogen Ayliffe getting harder to stop the longer the game went for Willetton, Lakeside still cruised to the 11-point victory.
On top of Isenbarger’s big game for the Lightning, Claire Jacobs finished with 11 points and five rebounds, Amy Jacobs seven points and two boards, Kyrah Daniels five points and two steals, and Courtney Mansfield five points and four rebounds.
Desiree Kelley top-scored for the Tigers with 13 points and 10 rebounds while hitting three triples throughout the evening.
Rising star Imogen Ayliffe is back at Willetton from college and was impressive inside with 12 points and 11 rebounds with Emily Counsel contributing nine points and five boards, Emma Gandini nine points, five steals, four rebounds and three assists, and Hayley Winter four points, four boards and three assists.
PERRY LAKES HAWKS 77 lost to WARWICK SENATORS 82
This always loomed as being a tantalising battle between two teams who reached the semi finals in the SBL of 2020 and it didn’t fail to deliver at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Lady Hawks won the championship back in 2017 and remained a strong force in 2019 before falling to the eventual champion Rockingham Flames in the semi finals while the Senators were tremendous to get to the Grand Final in the first year under coach Dion Dagostino.
Both the Hawks and Senators were both then looking strong for the 2020 season in the SBL with Perry Lakes adding Nici Gilday among others while Warwick had secured the signature of Makailah Dyer.
While their teams now for the West Coast Classic will be significantly different than they would have been four months, they have both put together strong squads and that was on show on Friday night.
The Senators did start well to lead by four at quarter-time and then keep that momentum going in the second period to lead 49-35 by half-time.
Perry Lakes whittled down that deficit, though, to set up a tight finish but Warwick did enough to hold on for the 82-77 victory.
Reigning SBL MVP Stacey Barr proved to be the difference as she put up 38 points for the Senators to go with seven rebounds and four assists on the back of shooting 11/23 from the field, 6/10 from three-point territory and 10/12 from the foul line.
Tayla Hepburn added 15 points and seven rebounds too while evergreen veteran Nicole Jorre De St Jorre put up nine points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists.
Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard also had eight points and six rebounds for the Senators, and Jayda Clark eight points and three assists.
Nat Burton top-scored for the Hawks with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with Bella Green showing exciting signs in 14 minutes off the bench with 14 points and three boards.
Sarah Donovan had 11 points, 11 rebounds and three steals while Kate Williams produced 10 points and new captain Annika Renkema eight points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
EAST PERTH EAGLES 66 lost to KALAMUNDA EASTERN SUNS 83
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns made a strong statement to open the West Coast Classic that they will be a team to be reckoned with after an impressive win over the East Perth Eagles.
The new-look Eagles under rookie coach Blake Srdarev were at home at Herb Graham Leisure Centre to host the Eastern Suns, and while there was plenty to like for East Perth in terms of the future, Kalamunda was especially impressive.
With recently signed Perth Lynx forward Jessie Edwards on board as well as Jewel Williams who is a WNBL-calibre player coming off a season at the Lynx, and a good group around them and coach Tom Knowles has plenty to work with.
The Eastern Suns were on fire from the outset and their opening quarter was perhaps the best period of any team this weekend in the West Coast Classic.
They piled on 34 points to 13 and while the Eagles kept pace with the Suns from there, they could never really close the gap and Kalamunda went on to win the game 83-66.
Jewel Williams had an impressive night for the Eastern Suns finishing with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals while Rebecca Motroni was rock solid with 14 points and four boards.
Georgia Adams also had 12 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals with Jessie Edwards adding 11 points and seven boards, and Emma Strelein nine points.
Ella Dimanlig top-scored for East Perth with 10 points while Shannon Street had eight points and four assists, Jade Gowland eight points and four rebounds, Bree Fisher seven points and two boards, Hannah-Rose Gillis six points and two assists, Gemma Dix six points and five assists, and Fiona Madden six points and eight rebounds.
MANDURAH MAGIC 46 lost to PERTH REDBACKS 79
Both the Mandurah Magic and Perth Redbacks had to back up from playing on Friday night away from home, and they both now end the weekend 1-1 after the result at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
The Magic did well to win in Bunbury over the Slammers on Friday while the Redbacks had the quick turnaround to go from Joondalup on Friday night to Mandurah on Saturday.
But they started the game on fire putting up 28 points in the opening period on the road.
The Redbacks then turned up the defensive heat in the second period to hold the Magic to just the four points to be well in control leading 42-17 by half-time.
The Redbacks were able to finish the job in the second half too outscoring the Magic a further 37 points to 29 to come away with the eventual 33-point victory to open their West Coast Classic account.
Brooke Malone was outstanding for a 16-year-old top scoring for the Redbacks with 16 points and six rebounds while nailing three triples on the evening.
Jess Jakens added 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals while Ella Thornton-Elliott contributed 11 points, Maddie Allen 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocks, and Chanah Crugnale eight points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Briana Bailey also finished with eight points and five assists, Shenae Hartree four points and six rebounds, Denielle Lipscombe three points and five boards, and Sarah Allen three points and three steals.
Olivia Bassett-Scarfe backed up her impressive game on Friday with another standout performance for the Magic on Saturday with 18 points, five rebounds and two steals on 6/10 shooting from the floor.
Rachel Pettit added nine points and three rebounds for Mandurah while Jaide Britton contributed nine points and four boards, Kasey Miegel four points and 10 rebounds, Kaitlyn Srhoj four points and five boards.
ROCKINGHAM FLAMES 84 defeated COCKBURN COUGARS 68
Defending SBL champions the Rockingham Flames opened the West Coast Classic season with an impressive opening round victory against the Cockburn Cougars.
It doubled as a night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex where the Flames unveiled their 2019 SBL championship banner which made it quite the big ask ahead of the Tyrone Thwaites-coached Cougars to upset the celebration evening.
It was a tight opening quarter and the Cougars even went to quarter-time up by a point before Rockingham was able to turn it around a little to head into half-time leading 36-33.
Rockingham was then able to turn it on in the third quarter to put the result beyond doubt by piling on 27 points before going on to finish the job to beat Cockburn 84-68.
The Cougars did a lot right on the evening and showed enough to suggest they are going to be impressive during this West Coast Classic, but they were undone on Saturday night by 25 turnovers and hitting just 4/29 from three-point territory.
Paris Duffield is one player that could thrive in the West Coast Classic finally receiving an opportunity to show what a scorer she can be that hasn’t been there during her time deep on the bench at Lakeside and Rockingham.
She started off impressively on Saturday night with 20 points, three rebounds and three steals.
Ariana Hetherington also finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for Rockingham while Christina Boag had 12 points and eight boards, Tayah Burrows 11 points and five assists, Chloe Napolitano eight points and four steals, and Chelsea Petrik seven points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Haylee De Sousa top-scored for Cockburn with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three steals while Jodee Sontay showed she has plenty left in the tank finishing with 12 points and five rebounds.
Kahlia Morgan added nine points and three rebounds, Emma Burke eight points and six boards, and Tahlia Fejo seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
KALAMUNDA EASTERN SUNS 83 defeated WILLETTON TIGERS 69
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns backed up their impressive Friday night showing by looking equally as good on Saturday to beat the Willetton Tigers at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
On the back of beating East Perth on the road on Friday, the Eastern Suns played their home opener on Saturday and put in a strong showing to end up beating a Willetton team 83-69 that now is 0-2 after the first weekend of the West Coast Classic.
It was an exciting opening quarter from both teams as they combined for 55 points with Kalamunda leading 28-27 by quarter-time.
The Suns were able to stretch their lead to seven by half-time and they then closed the deal in the fourth period with 18 points to 10 to claim the 14-point victory as Kalamunda improved to 2-0 and Willetton slipped to 0-2.
Willetton did keep the ball under a bit better control than in the loss to Lakeside on Friday, but Kalamunda did clearly win the rebound battle by 18 while still having three fewer turnovers and significantly winning the possession game by taking 16 more shots even if the Tigers shot at a better percentage.
Jewel Williams was once again outstanding for the Eastern Suns with 24 points, five steals and four rebounds with Jessie Edwards coming up big as well with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
Emma Strelein came up huge as well for Kalamunda with 18 points and five rebounds while Georgia Adams had another eight points and 10 rebounds.
Emma Gandini had a big night for Willetton finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Hayley Winter added 14 points and three assists for the Tigers while Emily Counsel contributed 10 points and three rebounds, Sophie Maines six points and nine boards, Kaya Wardle six points, three boards, three assists and three steals, and Tessa Miotti six points and five rebounds.