IT was a mixed night for the Perth Redbacks in Rockingham on Saturday night with the Lady Redbacks losing a nail-biter while the men continued their hot form to take a step closer to a finals berth in the West Coast Classic.
The Redbacks have now exhausted their home matches at Belmont Oasis for the West Coast Classic and both the Women and Men went through undefeated there to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top four.
But they did need to keep winning on the road to close the season and the women weren’t quite able to do that against the reigning SBL champion Flames with Rockingham winning 64-60 in a hard fought contest where Jess Jakens and Maddie Allen did all they could for the Redbacks.
The Redbacks men delivered another standout performance, though, to defeat the Flames 112-96 and to move into third position on the standings with two games and two rounds remaining.
That also meant that the Redbacks won the Anthony Exeter Cup for the night in Rockingham played for in honour of the former SBL MVP winner and 304-game superstar who tragically lost his life early in 2019.
The Redbacks women made the trip to Mike Barnett Sports Complex having won all their home matches at Belmont Oasis during the West Coast Classic but they did need to keep on winning to remain in the finals hunt with just two games remaining over the final three rounds.
It was a tight game the whole way through too between the two teams with plenty to play for as the West Coast Classic finals close in.
The Redbacks got off the best possible start on the road, starting with a couple of buckets to Jess Jakens and Denielle Lipscombe.
Bri Bailey knocked down a three-pointer and then Jakens scored again inside and all of a sudden the Redbacks were leading the Flames 11-0 after three minutes.
Rockingham eventually scored thanks to a pair of free-throws to Chloe Napolitano before a couple of baskets to Ariana Hetherington before Maddie Allen got on the board to give Perth the 13-6 lead against the team she led to a championship in the SBL last year as Grand Final MVP.
Three-pointers before quarter-time for Rockingham to Christina Boag and then Ashlyn Lee cut Perth’s advantage to 15-14 even with the Redbacks hitting the game’s first 11 points.
The Flames then took the lead for the first time to start the second quarter thanks to a Paris Duffield three and she added another to put the home team up five shortly after.
When Napolitano hit from beyond the arc as well, Rockingham led by six points and then were up still 32-28 by the half-time interval on their home court.
The Flames still led by four heading into the fourth but then blew the game open to start the final period with the opening seven points to lead by 11.
But with two minutes to go the Redbacks had managed to close the gap to three again on the back of a pull up jumper from Lipscombe.
The Flames immediately responded thanks to Boag but again it was a three-point game with under 24 seconds left after Sarah Allen scored on the back of a blocked shot and assist from Maddie Allen.
Keegan Crawford called the timeout for Rockingham and eventually it led to a made free-throw for Duffield to put the lead out to four and the Redbacks couldn’t get a late shot to fall meaning Rockingham won 64-60.
The loss could be the final blow, unfortunately, to the finals hopes of the Redbacks in the Women’s West Coast Classic with them now holding a 6-4 record ahead of the Round 8 bye and final round away clash to Lakeside.
Jess Jakens and Maddie Allen were tremendous inside for the Redbacks combining for 33 points, 29 rebounds, six assists and seven steals.
It wasn’t quite enough for the win but Jakens finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, six steals and two assists on 9/14 shooting with Allen adding 12 points, 20 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
Denielle Lipscombe added seven points, five assists, four blocks and three rebounds as well for the Redbacks, Bri Bailey six points, six boards and three assists, and Ella Thornton-Elliott five points.
Sarah Allen also had four points and seven rebounds, Chanah Crugnale two points and two assists, Brooke Malone two points, two rebounds and two assists, and Shenae Hartree one-point, two steals and a rebound.
The Flames and Redbacks both came into the men’s game at Mike Barnett Sports Complex knowing they needed a win to stay in the finals hunt in the West Coast Classic setting the stage for a dynamic contest given the talent involved.
Rockingham had kept itself an outside chance of reaching the top four with the upset win the previous week against the Joondalup Wolves on the back of 45 points from Jackson Hussey.
But the Redbacks were in hot form too having won five of the last six matches with the production and athleticism of Marshall Nelson, Tevin Jackson and Caleb White thriving under the leadership and poise of SBL all-time assists leader Joel Wagner.
Knowing they needed to keep winning to hold on to their place in the top four, the Redbacks made a terrific start on the road and put up 35 points to 22 in the first quarter which would prove to be a match-winning advantage.
Try as they might the rest of the way, the Flames could never quite close the gap with the Redbacks still leading by 23 points at half-time, 22 at three quarter-time and going on to win the game 112-96.
The result improves the Redbacks to an 8-3 record on the season in the West Coast Classic to sit in third position with road games against the Goldfields Giants and Lakeside Lightning to go.
Marshall Nelson’s match up with the back court of the Flames with Jackson Hussey and Ryan Godfrey was always going to be fascinating, and he delivered big time for the Redbacks with 32 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Tevin Jackson also went ever so close to a triple-double with 22 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocked shots while Dennis Tawhiti finished with 10 points, three boards and two steals.
Joel Wagner also had nine points and seven assists, Caleb White nine points and four rebounds, and Neema Kazemi nine points.
There were plenty more contributors for the Redbacks too on the night with Ezra Nikora adding six points, Jordan Herbert four points, Ethan Vlahov four points and four rebounds, Michael Riley three points and four boards, Kyden Edman two points and Dylan Vilardi two points and two rebounds.