WITH one team trying to cling to their top four spot and the other desperate to try and break in, the stage was set for a cracking contest and that’s what eventuated with the Perth Redbacks holding off the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at the buzzer.
Any time a game is decided by a shot falling or not on the buzzer means that you’ve got your money’s worth for any game of basketball you’ve watched, and that was exactly the case in the women’s contest between the Redbacks and Eastern Suns at Belmont Oasis on Friday night.
With the Redbacks needing to win to stay alive in the race for the West Coast Classic finals, it was a trademark offensive rebound and put back from captain Jess Jakens that gave the Redbacks the 74-72 lead with a minute remaining.
However, a couple of missed free-throws left the door open on the last possession for the Suns to snatch it and it seemed inevitable it would be Jewel Williams given the task of deciding the result.
That’s exactly what happened but the Redbacks ran a good defensive possession to ensure the triple that Williams attempted was from well behind the three-point line and was contested. It still almost fell, but then Rebecca Motroni scrambled for the offensive board.
She got the ball back to Williams and there was time to put up another three-point attempt, this one was from either further out, though, and didn’t go close and it was the Redbacks who held on for the thrilling and crucial 74-72 victory.
What the result means is that it keeps the finals hunt well and truly alive with the Redbacks now holding a 6-3 record with just two games remaining away to the Rockingham Flames and Lakeside Lightning.
The Eastern Suns now sit on a 4-2 record ahead of backing up on Saturday night hosting the South West Slammers at Ray Owen Sports Centre in a game they can’t afford to drop to hold onto that fourth position.
Coming into the game the Redbacks and Eastern Suns appeared like they would be tough to separate and that’s exactly how the game panned out at Belmont Oasis.
It was a remarkably close affair the whole way with nothing more than five points separating the two teams the entire contest. Both teams made a run of scoring eight straight points at different times, but never did more than five points separate them.
It was always destined to go down to the wire as a result especially with both teams knowing what was at stake with it marking the beginning of the last month in the West Coast Classic.
Kalamunda started the fourth quarter up three but Shenae Hartree soon changed that and gave Perth the one-point lead with a triple to start the fourth quarter. Jess Jakens then hit a jumper two to make it a three-point lead before the Eastern Suns responded with an and-one from Jessie Edwards.
Jewel Williams then connected from deep and Beige Harris scored inside and suddenly the Suns were up by a game-high five with seven minutes to go.
Sarah Allen kept the Redbacks close when she hit from downtown but Rebecca Motroni soon responded for the Eastern Suns to keep them up three, now with five minutes remaining.
A lane opened up for Jakens to lay it up soon after for the Redbacks and they were back up one and then former Sun Chanah Crugnale regained the lead for the home team connecting from deep with three minutes remaining.
Edwards tied things up a minute later but then it was time for the game-winning offensive rebound and put back basket from Jakens.
That gave the Redbacks the 74-72 which is where the game finished despite Denielle Lipscombe having two free-throw attempts for the Redbacks and Williams ultimately missing the two deep threes just before the buzzer for the Eastern Suns.
Redbacks coach Craig Allen was pretty happy even on the way his team defended on that last possessions just not with the second chance the Suns got.
But in the end for his team to respond after blowing a lead last Sunday against the Warwick Senators when leading by 12 with three minutes to go meant he came away happy with the performance and the result.
“I wasn’t happy with the offensive board they got, because we had actually cleaned out the bigs quite well and when the ball fell on the ground we should have got to that,” Allen said.
“But at the end of the day, what we did do well defensively was make them take two bad offensive shots. Both those threes Jewel took were two, three, four metres outside the three-point line. So I don’t think we can be too negative about our defence.
“I could see them going in actually, but I was really happy with how it panned out. As I said to the girls, we didn’t finish pretty but we got the job done. I was really happy with how we fought it out and I think we just wanted it at the end of the day.
“That probably is a step up from what happened last Sunday and we realised we probably weren’t going to go through that again. So we fought it out well and there are always little things to work on and get better at, but I was happy with the endeavour and the intent, and really happy with how the group worked together. The bench was loud and we played for each other.”
Jess Jakens delivered 21 points, 12 rebounds and three steals for the Redbacks on hot shooting of 9/11 from the field to continue her brilliant West Coast Classic.
Denielle Lipscombe added 10 points, six rebounds and five assists while reigning SBL Shootaround Player of the Week Maddie Allen had another eight points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
Chanah Crugnale also had nine points for the Redbacks, Shenae Hartree eight points and two rebounds, Sarah Allen seven points and two boards, Brooke Malone six points and two rebounds, Bri Bailey three points, two boards and two assists, and Ella Thornton-Elliott two points.
The Eastern Suns had two standout players with Jessie Edwards finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block while going 8/16 from the floor and 13/13 from the foul line.
Jewel Williams also had 28 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals on 10/20 shooting from the field and 4/8 from three-point range.
Rebecca Motroni added nine points, six rebounds and five assists for Kalamunda, and Denae Civich four points and three steals.
Coach Allen enjoyed watching on as Perth Lynx WNBL teammates Maddie Allen and Jessie Edwards went at it all evening.
“It was a really good match up and in the end they probably just about fought out a draw. It was a good effort I think but where Maddie is so good for us is where she is so creative and brings other people into the game,” Allen said.
“Her numbers aren’t always reflective of how important she is to the group. But what Maddie brings to the group is getting everybody else in a better position and I think she was leading the league in assists even coming into this round so I think that’s where she is a real benefit to us as a group.
“We’re still working out how to work off her really so it’s only going to get better in that regard.”
In the end, Allen was delighted with the effort put forward by the Redbacks to cling to the win, to remain unbeaten at home in the West Coast Classic and to stay in the finals race.
“I was really happy with the endeavour, really happy with that. Again there is execution things that we can work on and get better at, and make sure we are all on the same page consistently,” Allen said.
“But those things are building as a group and we’re getting better as a group, and we are seeing each other and working out how we play together. I think the endeavour, intent and support for each other was the thing that really showed out tonight.”
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – WOMEN
Perth Redbacks 74 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 72
South West Slammers 28 lost to Willetton Tigers 81
Joondalup Wolves 67 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks 55
Mandurah Magic v Warwick Senators – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 5.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v East Perth Eagles – Bendat Basketball Centre 6.00pm
Rockingham Flames v Joondalup Wolves – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v South West Slammers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm