AFTER Damien Scott on Saturday night and then Luke Travers and Gavin Field on Sunday were behind the two West Coast Classic defeats for the Goldfields Giants this weekend, coach Wayne Creek is excited about what they are building for the future.
The Giants returned to the road this weekend after back-to-back home victories in Kalgoorlie against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Rockingham Flames, and for Creek he saw more encouraging signs for what the future holds despite the results
Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium saw the Giants go down to the Willetton Tigers by three points and 268-game SBL championship winning star was instrumental in that defeat with his 28 points, 10 rebounds and six assists including nailing the go-ahead three with 30 seconds left.
The Giants then backed up on Sunday at Wally Hagan Stadium and while the Cockburn Cougars were missing Jaarod Holmes and Seva Chan, they did possess all-time SBL great Gavin Field and emerging superstar Luke Travers.
That pair combined for 49 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists as the Cougars took away the hard earned 94-88 victory over the Giants on their home floor.
While taking nothing away from their opponents on the week, Creek can’t help but be excited with what he is now developing in this West Coast Classic after being left with so many unknown questions over his squad when the SBL season for 2020 was cancelled.
The Giants now have an exciting big men combination in Mayo Malek and Majier Garang to build around but their starting five is then tapped off by a trio that can be banked on for years to come in Jerome Reid, Fletcher Klasztorny and Damon Ballantyne.
Then there are young players getting chances off the bench they otherwise never would in an SBL season including Riley Duncan, Noah Hinkley, Ethan McGhie, Sam Morrow and Paxton Creek.
With such a young and developing group, sometimes you have to accept getting beaten by some genuine superstars as long as you are on the right path to growing, which Creek has no doubt the Giants are.
“We don’t have a Gavin Field or a Damien Scott, I’d love to have an experienced guy like that on our team – who wouldn’t,” Creek said.
“But we are developing the next Gavin Field or Damien Scott, at least we hope we are, and it will be Fletcher Klasztorny and Damon Ballantyne are talking about like that in a couple of years’ time.
“It would be great to have those guys and they beat us this weekend, but in another season or two and we unfortunately might not be talking about those guys, but our guys instead.”
The Giants lost a tight affair to Willetton on Saturday night to open their Round 4 road double-header in the West Coast Classic. They were on top with momentum until Damien Scott’s triple gave the Tigers the lead late and they went on to win 80-77.
Goldfields then backed up the next day for the midday start at Wally Hagan Stadium against the Cougars, and little separated the two teams right the way through in an entertaining affair.
The Giants did hold a narrow edge for much of the second half and were up as much nine shortly before half-time before the Cougars closed the gap to four at the break.
The Cougars did gradually pull away throughout the second half and it was a Matt Clifford three with just over 3:30 left that looked as though it could be a dagger.
But Mayo Malek hit a big three to keep Goldfields in touch before the visitors forced a back court violation and Fletcher Klasztorny pulled in an offensive board and scored on the put back to make it a two-point game.
However, from there the Giants couldn’t quite knock down the basket when it mattered most and the Cougars iced the win at the foul line.
Gavin Field finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Cockburn with Luke Travers contributing 20 points, 15 boards and eight assists, Kye Chamberlain 18 points and six rebounds, Jake Harris eight points and three assists, and Matt Clifford eight points and three rebounds.
Meanwhile, Fletcher Klasztorny had his best showing state league level with 25 points, four steals, four rebounds and four assists for the Giants on 10/14 shooting.
Damon Ballantyne wasn’t far behind with 19 points and seven rebounds while Mayo Malek had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Majier Garang 10 points and 14 boards.
Jerome Reid also had seven points and five assists, Noah Hinkley six points, Riley Duncan three and Ethan McGhie two.
While acknowledging it’s never fun lose, Creek can’t be more encouraged by what he is seeing develop within his Giants team.
“It is a tough loss and as I said to the guys, don’t put your heads down. Hold them up because we are right there, we are right there,” Creek said.
“We lost by three points and six points this weekend, and we have half a brand new team and a bunch of young guys as well so you look at the positives and we are laying the foundations. The guys played their hearts out.
“There were a couple of key turnovers and missed shots here, and it’s a whole different ball game so you have to be happy with the work ethic and the rate, and I’m proud of what they are doing as a group.”
Aside from a 48-point opening night loss on the road to the Warwick Senators, the Giants have been a chance to win all their games this season with tight road losses to Perry Lakes, Willetton and Cockburn, and the home victories against Kalamunda and Rockingham.
Creek wasn’t sure what sort of a group Goldfields could pull together for the West Coast Classic with the loss of their imports and Kyle Tipene from what they were going to have in the SBL, but now he couldn’t be happier with his group.
“We are comparable with every team at this stage we’d like to think with the group we have,” Creek said.
“Stirling did get us first up and we weren’t prepared as a group to be hit by that very talented, but then we lost by five points to Perry Lakes, three last night to the Tigers and six today against the Cougars.
“Those games could go either way and we are right there, and I want the guys to walk away feeling that while we didn’t get there, we are close and right there, and it doesn’t take much to get over the line. We are right on the cusp.”
The key to any developing group is to be able to stay together long enough where you can grow as a unit and end up reaching the success you are all aiming for.
That’s going to be the key to this Giants team and clearly the first step is to secure the services of big men duo Mayo Malek and Majier Garang, and Creek and the club are fully aware of that and are already in the works of securing their signatures.
But if you can keep those two along with Fletcher Klasztorny and Damon Ballantyne, and keep bringing the local brigade through led by Jerome Reid, then add in two imports for the next SBL or NBL1 West season and Creek would see no reason to want anything else at his disposal.
“Trust me, it’s already in the workings and we’ve already had discussions behind the scenes. I’d like to think that they’ll be sewn away pretty quickly or at least we’ll know their plans moving forward. You want to lock in your key players as soon as possible and it’s in the motions,” Creek said.
“Damon and Fletcher have actually now got a real good opportunity to play quality minutes. They’re playing 28 or 30 minutes a game and are showing what they can actually do out there, and we are starting to bear the rewards already from that.
“Damon has shown that he’s a starting calibre point guard and Fletcher is now a combo player who can even run the point so he’s a very versatile player.
“If we had a regular SBL season this year they might not be getting these opportunities, or if we had nothing at all we wouldn’t know, so this West Coast Classic is a great breeding ground for us especially to bring the next generation through.”
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – MEN
Perth Redbacks 94 defeated Willetton Tigers 92
East Perth Eagles 72 lost to Cockburn Cougars 95
Lakeside Lightning 84 defeated Rockingham Flames 71
Geraldton Buccaneers 56 lost to Warwick Senators 104
Mandurah Magic 54 lost to Joondalup Wolves 87
South West Slammers 55 lost to Perry Lakes Hawks 76
Rockingham Flames 95 defeated East Perth Eagles 80
Willetton Tigers 80 defeated Goldfields Giants 77
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 57 lost to Lakeside Lightning 75
Cockburn Cougars 94 defeated Goldfields Giants 88