THE Perth Redbacks overcame a slow start and an early scare on Friday night from the Kalamunda Eastern Suns to dominate the last 25 minutes of the game after being outplayed for the first 15 to stay in the finals race.
With all the youthful energy in the world and a nothing to lose attitude against a Redbacks team who knew they needed to win their final home game at Belmont Oasis of the season to stay in the finals race, the Eastern Suns turned the heat back on the home team.
The Suns shot out of the blocks quickly and delivered some exciting basketball over the first 15 minutes of the game, but Mark Utley’s young team couldn’t keep it going and the Redbacks’ class and experience came to the fore the longer the game went on.
From the moment Eastern Suns veteran Corey Easley knocked down a triple three minutes into the second quarter to give the visitors a 35-27 advantage, it was all Redbacks.
The Redbacks outscored the Suns 63 points to 28 the rest of the way to end up heading into half-time leading 50-41 having closed the first half on a 23-6 run including a three from Marshall Nelson on the buzzer.
Perth kept it going in the second half to outscore Kalamunda 40 points 22 to end up winning 90-63 and to maintain their hopes of taking part in the finals of the West Coast Classic.
The Redbacks have now gone through the season undefeated in their home games at Belmont Oasis with them now holding a 7-3 record ahead of finishing on the road against the Rockingham Flames, Goldfields Giants and Lakeside Lightning.
The Eastern Suns now have a short turnaround before heading home on Saturday to Ray Owen Sports Centre to host the South West Slammers.
The Suns made a flying start to the game with consecutive three-pointers from Corey Easley before Brendan Dinardo also scored to put them up 8-2. That became 11-4 after a Carl Aylett three-point play, and then 16-9 when Ryan Blanchett also converted an and-one.
Kalamunda still led 26-22 at the end of the first quarter and then Aylett knocked down two more triples to start the second period to keep the Eastern Suns up seven.
They were still up eight when Easley hit another three with seven minutes to go in the half and that’s when the Redbacks got rolling.
Ethan Vlahov sparked thing for the home team knocking down a triple and when Marshall Nelson threw one down on the pass from Joel Wagner, scores were all tied.
Then all of a sudden with Nelson nailing a buzzer-beating three on half-time the Redbacks were on fire having turned that eight-point deficit into a nine-point lead by the main break.
The Redbacks had their tails up by that point and then there was no stopping them in the second half as they put up 22 points to 11 in the third quarter, another 18 to 11 in the fourth to come away with the commanding 90-63 victory.
While the slow start wasn’t ideal for Redbacks coach CJ Jackson, he can see reasons for it and he’s now confident of his team finishing the season strongly even on the road to the Flames, Giants and Lightning.
“Other than against Cockburn and Stirling when we’ve got off to a good start, the other games we’ve got off to slower starts and I just think it’s about us feeling each other out still,” Jackson said.
“We are so new to each other and what this West Coast Classic is like we don’t have the chances to work together as much as we probably could because a lot of guys are working or can’t make sessions. I think our slow starts can be attributed to that.
“I feel pretty confident with the run home that we can be successful in this run home now. The Joondalup result tonight against Perry Lakes doesn’t help us but I think we have a pretty good run home and I think we can put together what would be a pretty good season if we would only lose three games. I think that would be really good.”
Caleb White produced another impressively efficient performance for the Redbacks with 23 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals on shooting 8/10 from the field, 2/3 from deep and 5/5 from the foul line.
Marshall Nelson delivered another 15 points, six rebounds and four assists with Tevin Jackson adding 13 points, three boards and three steals, and captain Joel Wagner 11 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Michael Riley was impressive for 10 points and five rebounds with Ethan Vlahov contributing five points and five boards, and Kyden Edman five points, two boards and two assists.
Dual championship winning guard Brendan Dinardo put up 15 points, five rebounds and four assists for Kalamunda with Carl Aylett contributing 11 points and four boards, and Corey Easley 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Ryan Blanchett added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Eastern Suns, and Cooper Lowe seven points and five rebounds.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – MEN
Perth Redbacks 90 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 63
South West Slammers 57 lost to Willetton Tigers 81
Joondalup Wolves 85 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks 77
Geraldton Buccaneers v Cockburn Cougars – Active West Stadium 6.00pm
Goldfields Giants v Lakeside Lightning – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Warwick Senators – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v East Perth Eagles – Bendat Basketball Centre 7.00pm
Rockingham Flames v Joondalup Wolves – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v South West Slammers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm