THE Warwick Senators emerged as the best team during the West Coast Classic but Ben Purser and the Perry Lakes Hawks threw everything at them in Sunday’s Grand Final before they went on to claim the first championship banner to take back to Warwick Stadium, winning 96-81.
The West Coast Classic Grand Final was set up on Friday night with the Senators holding off a fast-finishing and dangerous Lakeside Lightning in the semi finals while the Hawks advanced courtesy of a big win against a once deep yet now undermanned Joondalup Wolves outfit.
The two teams had finished the regular season as the hottest teams in the competition as well, they occupied the top two positions and with Perry Lakes the only team to have beaten Warwick before the Senators went on a 13-game winning streak, everything was set up for a cracking Grand Final.
Then with Hawks captain and 2018 SBL Grand Final MVP Ben Purser doing as he pleased whether passing or scoring, it was Perry Lakes who started on fire with the first seven points and to end up leading by double-figures.
But the Senators worked back into the contest and showing how deep they were, it wasn’t necessarily superstars Cody Ellis, Caleb Davis, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk or Justin King, but point guard Corban Wroe, athletic big Ngor Manyang and even the underrated Jay Thwaites leading their charge.
The game was still on a knife’s edge most of the way with both teams throwing everything at winning this championship in front of a large and vocal crowd at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The game-changing moment, though, came 4:30 into the fourth quarter when Purser’s night ended with five fouls. He had been the standout player of the Grand Final up to that point and Warwick was only leading 76-75 at that stage.
Everything changed from there and the Senators ended up going on a 20-6 run the rest of the Grand Final including Justin King hitting 10 of those as Warwick claimed the club’s first ever championship of any kind since the inception of the SBL.
Very little separated the two teams in just about all areas in what was a terrific Grand Final and showcase of WA basketball. In the end the added size for the Senators did make an impact as they finished with 50 rebounds to 38, and getting to the foul line 30 times to just 11.
The Grand Final MVP was former Perth Wildcats point guard Corban Wroe who played tenacious defence provided with his energy in scrapping for every loose ball and he delivered offensively too for 15 points, six rebounds and six assists on 7/9 shooting.
The strength of this Senators team has been their number of strong contributors and that was again the case in the Grand Final with Ngor Manyang brilliant too with 15 points and 10 rebounds on 3/5 shooting from three-point land.
Justin King top-scored with 19 points and seven rebounds while Caleb Davis had 17 points and nine boards, captain Cody Ellis 10 points and six assists, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk nine points and six rebounds, and Jay Thwaites five points and five assists.
Ben Purser was simply brilliant and unstoppable for Perry Lakes before fouling out with 5:30 left in the game. He hadn’t sat the entire game up until then and had 24 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and two steals on 11/18 shooting.
Ryan Smith ended up with 18 points and five rebounds, Rob Cassir 13 points, four boards, four steals and three assists, and Mitch Clarke 13 points, six rebounds and four assists in is point guard battle with Wroe.
Senators coach Mike Ellis, who was part of the club’s last championship in 1982 when it was still the district competition, couldn’t have been happier for everyone involved in the club for getting this championship triumph.
“I think it just means that it’s a reward for the amount of effort that’s been done. There has been a lot of work done over a long period of time and it’s nice to see that all that work that has been done has probably paid dividends, I think that’s the biggest for us,” Ellis said.
“From our perspective I’ve looked at what we have done the whole year and obviously we’ve got the main guys, but our bench has been phenomenal all year, and there have been different guys stepping up at different times.
“There were comments around that no one thought our bench was very strong but I would have thought we would have one of the strongest benches in the league. We have some young guns too and if you did the averages of the Perry Lakes starting five and ours, I don’t think there’d be much difference in the ages.
“We have a heap of young guys on the bench and to have some of our lesser lights to step up in the big game was fantastic. It’s great to see young kids coming through and that’s what is exciting for me is seeing all these young guys.
“It’s not just on our team either, but Perry Lakes have a few too and a number of other teams have done a similar thing which I think is what’s been good about this competition to give the opportunity to the younger guys.
“There was talk about having three imports and all that but with every additional import you put in apart from the cost factor is taking away the opportunity for a junior to come up and play. It’s so important for our juniors to see a pathway to play at the top.”
Having played in a Grand Final as recently as 2018 where they won, the Hawks came out more ready for the occasion starting strongly with Rob Cassir opening the scoring before Mitch Clarke and Bailey Cole joined in for the 7-0 start.
Ben Purser then made it a 9-1 opening and It took four minutes for the Senators first field goal. That turned out to be a three-point play from Justin King but Bailey Cole responded as Perry Lakes went up 12-4.
The Hawks then pulled away further threatening to blow the Grand Final open with an 8-0 run and that put the pressure on the Senators to respond. To their credit, they did and went 12-4 to close the first term and to only trail by two.
Purser continued to dish out stunning passes and scored at will throughout the second quarter as he added another eight points for 17-5-5 at the long break but the Senators actually turned around a deficit into a half-time lead.
Ngor Manyang and Ash Litterick provided a spark with Warwick with their size before Jay Thwaites hit a couple of buckets and then Cody Ellis put the Senators on top and they led 49-45 by the half.
The Hawks had managed to claw back in front by midway through the third quarter after a couple of buckets to Purser before Wroe hit a real purple patch. Capping off his brilliant defence, he scored three consecutive baskets for the Senators as they went up five.
It wouldn’t last with Ryan Smith and Purser nailed three-point bombs for Perry Lakes as they led 66-64 by three quarter-time.
The Hawks had a decision to make when Purser collected his fourth foul to start the final quarter. They elected to have him stay in but with 5:30 left, his night was over and the Senators were able to take full advantage.
Perry Lakes managed just the six points the rest of the way without their lead while the Senators produced their best basketball of the night.
It was King and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk who had their best five minutes of the night too combining for 13 of Warwick’s 18 points in those last five minutes as they opened up a 15-point advantage and won the championship in the West Coast Classic in style.
MEN’S WEST COAST CLASSIC GRAND FINAL 2020
WARWICK SENATORS 96 (Justin King 19, Caleb Davis 17, Corban Wroe 15, Ngor Manyang 15)
PERRY LAKES HAWKS 81 (Ben Purser 24, Ryan Smith 18, Mitch Clarke 13, Rob Cassir 13)
GRAND FINAL MVP: Corban Wroe (Warwick Senators)