The Perth Redbacks made it a perfect weekend in the West Coast Classic when Marshall Nelson nailed a stunning game-winning three on Saturday night against the Geraldton Buccaneers at Belmont Oasis.
The Redbacks opened up Round 3 in the West Coast Classic with two wins on Friday night with the women beating the East Perth Eagles 81-48 before the men backed up defeating 95-78.
It was then a standalone men’s clash on Saturday night when the Redbacks hosted the reigning SBL champion Geraldton Buccaneers, and it turned out to be a thrilling contest decided on the buzzer.
The Redbacks had yet to taste defeat at home so far in the West Coast Classic while the Buccs were starting their third straight road trip while their Active West Stadium back in Geraldton was finished being renovated.
The Buccaneers had won just one of their opening four matches over the previous two weekends and then lost reigning Grand Final MVP Liam Hunt to a devastating knee injury last Saturday night, but the champions showed their heart with a strong start on Saturday night.
It was a stunning start from Geraldton as they scored the game’s first 12 points which including two three-pointers from 399-game SBL veteran Aaron Ralph who was coming off 27 points in the first half last Sunday against the Joondalup Wolves.
Tevin Jackson eventually got the Redbacks on the board three minutes into the game but when Ralph nailed his third triple, the Buccaneers’ lead was out to 17-3.
Ralph would go on to score 15 points in the first quarter for Geraldton but Perth had done well to steady the ship by quarter-time and limit the damage to a six-point deficit.
While Marshall Nelson hit a three to start the second quarter and make it a three-point game, the Buccs again pulled away and were up eight another veteran Carter Cook hit one from downtown.
But again when Nelson hit from beyond the arc the Redbacks were back within two heading towards half-time and then Dennis Tawhiti scored inside to level scores with three minutes to go.
Nelson and Caleb White then drained threes to give the Redbacks a lead before Tevin Jackson hit a pair of triples to give the home side a 50-48 edge on half-time after Ralph had another connected on yet another three-point bomb.
Things stayed close throughout the second half as well and just seemed destined to be one of those games to be decided with the last possession with the stars from both sides coming up huge, and putting on quite the entertaining show.
Geraldton still managed to lead by four at quarter-time before Joel Wagner brought the Redbacks back within one with a three of his own to start the fourth period.
Brayden Inger was another to hit from deep to put Geraldton back up four and Jesse Hunt stretched their lead to six, but Nelson then kept Perth close when he connected from three-point land.
A pair of free-throws from Hunt still see the Buccs in control leading by five with 2:30 remaining before Wagner responded with two at the stripe himself.
Jackson then scored on a layup to bring the Redbacks within one before he gave away a tech foul. Ralph ended up having three free-throws but made just one which left Geraldton up 85-83 but with the door open with the Redbacks having the last possession.
And it was Nelson who drained the game winning short as time was winding down on the back of Ralph’s missed free-throw. The Buccs then couldn’t get a shot off out of a timeout on the desperation last attempt and the Redbacks won 86-85 in a beauty of a contest.
Marshall Nelson not only hit the game-winner for the Redbacks but finished the night with 37 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocked shots on shooting 12/23 from the floor, 8/13 from three-point land and 5/8 from the foul line.
Tevin Jackson added 17 points and five assists with Joel Wagner contributing 11 points and six assists, Dennis Tawhiti 10 points and five rebounds, and Ezra Nikora six points and three assists. Caleb White had just five points after hitting 42 on Friday night.
Aaron Ralph finished with 30 points for the second straight game for the Buccaneers on shooting 8/21 from the field, 4/11 from three-point range and 10/13 from the foul line. He also had seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Brayden Inger continues his growth and had 21 points and 12 rebounds with Jesse Hunt adding 15 points and 10 boards, and Xavier Shaw eight points. Championship captain Mat Wundenberg played his first game of 2020 for four points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Redbacks are now back home at Belmont Oasis against the Willetton Tigers on Friday night.