THE Warwick Senators might very well be emerging as the team to beat in the West Coast Classic overcoming a slow start against the Perth Redbacks to come away with a strong 93-82 win at Warwick Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams came into the game to close Round 5 in impressive form with the Senators having beaten the Cockburn Cougars by 43 points on Friday night at Wally Hagan Stadium to mean they were on a five-game winning streak.
The Redbacks, too, made it four matches on the trot when they beat the South West Slammers by 38 points on Saturday night at Belmont Oasis setting the stage for a tremendous match up at Warwick Stadium on Sunday.
The Senators need to keep winning to stay in the top four and the Redbacks are trying to break in for a finals position.
Throw in the fact that both teams were coached by greats in their own rights in Mike Ellis and CJ Jackson with their sons leading their teams in Cody Ellis and Tevin Jackson, and there was an added bit of intrigue.
Both teams have a strong balance of experience and youth too. The Senators are led by Cody, Caleb Davis, Justin King Ash Litterick but also have the emerging Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, Ethan Elliott and Alier Riak.
Then at the Redbacks there’s Tevin, Joel Wagner, Marshall Nelson, Caleb White and Dennis Tawhiti but then emerging brigade led by Ethan Vlahov, Michael Riley and Kyden Edman.
In the end despite the Redbacks making a flying start with a 33-point first quarter to lead by as much as 16, the Senators worked back into the contest and ended up leading by as many as 14 themselves before settling on the 93-82 victory.
Even though Caleb Davis scored the first basket of the game for the Senators, the Redbacks got off to the quick start and when Tevin Jackson drained a triple, they were up 9-2 before Justin King steadied the home team with a pair of free throws.
But Marshall Nelson hit from downtown to stretch Perth’s lead to 14-4 before he again connected from three-point land to give the Redbacks the early 17-4 advantage.
That became 16 just before the end of the opening period with another three-pointer from Ethan Vlahov before Justin King connected from downtown from the Senators just on quarter-time.
The Redbacks were able to maintain a near double-figure lead for much of the second period and were still up seven with 2:30 to go in the half when Tevin Jackson nailed one from three-point land.
But the Senators kept fighting and had the deficit back to just three at half-time after a late triple from Jay Thwaites.
The Senators then took over in the third quarter and piled on 33 points while holding the Redbacks to 21. They were on top by nine at three quarter-time and then were never seriously threatened in the fourth period despite the best efforts of the Redbacks.
Nelson fouling out didn’t help the cause of the visitors and it was a Cody Ellis triple that staved off any fight back from the Redbacks to steady the Senators to a six-point lead with three minutes to go, and they went on to win by 11.
Justin King had another standout performance for the Senators with 29 points and 15 rebounds while hitting 4/9 from three-point territory.
Caleb Davis added 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Warwick while Cody Ellis contributed 13 points and seven assists, Jay Thwaites seven points and four rebounds, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk six points and six boards, and Ash Litterick six points, three rebounds and three assists.
Despite battling foul trouble and fouling out in the end, Marshall Nelson had 25 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Redbacks while hitting 4/9 from three-point territory.
Tevin Jackson added 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists with Joel Wagner contributing 13 points and eight assists.
Caleb White also had 11 points and three rebounds, Ethan Vlahov five points and six rebounds, Dennis Tawhiti four points and four boards, Neema Kazemi three points, and Michael Riley two points and two rebounds.
Redbacks coach CJ Jackson always knew it would be a tough ask against the Senators having played the previous night, but ultimately he takes a lot from the game despite the result not going the way of the Redbacks.
“I think it was always going to be a tough ask especially after how we started out. I think we had a lot of guys who were pretty tired after playing a lot of minutes in a pretty physical game last night against the Slammers,” Jackson said.
“It was a physical game for us because we ran hard to establish a good lead. And then today to back it up for a lot of guys to play against some big, big units out there and some healthy bodies and experienced players was always going to be a tough ask for us.
“I don’t feel too disappointed even though obviously you don’t like losing. But at the end of the day, this is a pre-season tournament and it gives us a chance to play some of the boys in the heat of the games to see how they go in those moments.
“It will hold us in good stead for next year and one of our player, Michael Riley’s father told me that we have so many guys on the roster under 20 years old. So to be bringing those guys along and to be going how we are, I think we’re going OK. I’m pretty happy with how we are going.”
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – MEN
South West Slammers 61 lost to Lakeside Lightning 62
Cockburn Cougars 74 lost to Warwick Senators 117
East Perth Eagles 58 lost to Willetton Tigers 64
Perry Lakes Hawks 106 defeated Rockingham Flames 69
Geraldton Buccaneers 85 defeated Mandurah Magic 69
Goldfields Giants 80 defeated Joondalup Wolves 71
Perth Redbacks 93 defeated South West Slammers 55
Rockingham Flames 45 lost to Willetton Tigers 110
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 77 defeated Cockburn Cougars 65
Warwick Senators 93 defeated Perth Redbacks 82