The Perth Redbacks returned to the NBL1 West Men’s Division winner’s list on Saturday despite the absence of a host of key players to take that momentum with them into a do-or-die playoff clash this Saturday night.
The Redbacks men were coming off a tough couple of losses to the Mandurah Magic and Lakeside Lightning last weekend that cost them the chance of finishing in the top four, but they were still guaranteed of a playoff position coming into the last round of the regular season.
With the absence of Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna, the Redbacks struggled again on Friday night at Belmont Oasis to end up losing to the Cockburn Cougars 96-70.
But the Redbacks did bounce back the next afternoon on their home court to defeat the Goldfields Giants 94-79 to finish the regular season in seventh position with a 13-9 record.
That sets up a cut-throat elimination final for the Redbacks this Saturday night against the Warwick Senators at Warwick Stadium where they need to win to keep their season alive.
Going back to Friday night, the Redbacks were still fighting for a top-four spot and Cougars for a playoff spot when the two teams went to battle.
The Redbacks suffered a couple of tough losses last weekend in the absence of Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna, but they could still end up in a top-four finish with two wins in the final round and depending on how the other results fell.
The Redbacks were once again without key starters Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna, and it showed, and even though they were on the road, the Cougars got off to a fast start with the opening six points of the game through Josh Hunt and Nic Pozoglou, and they never looked back from there.
With six-time NBL champion and Australian basketball’s greatest ever defender Damian Martin watching on as former teammates Louis Timms, Gavin Field and Nic Pozoglou, and opponents Tevin Jackson and Marshall Nelson, even referee Bret Campbell, gracing the court.
What he saw was quite the dominant performance from the Cougars as they fought to keep their season alive. They would lead 24-15 by quarter-time and only continue to ram home their advantage the rest of the night.
Cockburn put up another 23 points to 17 in the second quarter to go into half-time in control leading 47-32.
The margin ballooned out to as much as 33 points early in the fourth quarter before the Cougars cruised to the 96-70 victory against a disappointing Redbacks outfit.
Louis Timms put up 23 points and five rebounds on Friday night for the Redbacks while shooting 4/7 from beyond the arc with Marshall Nelson adding 10 points, eight boards and three assists, Derek Igbenoba eight points and three rebounds, and Tevin Jackson eight points and three assists.
The Redbacks responded to a disappointing last 11 quarters in the NBL1 West Men’s Division to score a win at least heading into the playoffs despite the absence of three key players then on Saturday.
If you take out an impressive opening term against the Magic, the Redbacks had been outscored 295 to 222 in their last 11 quarters of basketball.
Coming into Saturday afternoon’s clash with the Goldfields Giants at Belmont Oasis and Tevin Jackson joined fellow start starters Joel Wagner and Zac Gattorna on the sidelines.
The Giants were also hoping to finish their season on a high as well even if playoffs were out of reach and they arrived for the last game of the season on a two-match winning streak.
The Giants came out and started well too to turn the pressure further back on the Redbacks who were desperate to not head into an elimination final on a four-game losing streak no matter who they had available.
They still had Louis Timms and Marshall Nelson to lean on, though, and were able to turn things around in the second quarter with 27 points to 12 to head into the half-time break leading 55-44.
The Redbacks were able to open up a match-winning gap in the third quarter to lead the Giants 75-56 by three quarter-time before going on to record the 94-79 win to snap that losing slide and to finish the regular season in seventh place at 13-9.
Marshall Nelson had an impressive performance to lead the Redbacks with 27 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals while shooting 10/14 from the field, 2/4 from the three-point line and 5/6 from the free-throw line.
Louis Timms also delivered 22 points and five rebounds on 10/13 shooting for the Redbacks so to get 49 points on 20/27 shooting from their two guns was impressive.
Jordan Herbert stood in for the missing usual starters and had 13 points and six rebounds while Lachlan Bertram contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Kyden Edman also had six points, David Swaby seven and Matt Giorgi three to go with two assists.