The Perth Redbacks produced the best first 10 quarters imaginable to put themselves within striking distance of the NBL1 West Men’s Grand Final on Saturday night, but it wasn’t quite to be.
It had been an up and down ride for the Redbacks men throughout the regular season and this was summed up by them entering the finals from seventh position. But they were a totally different outfit once the post-season commenced.
The Redbacks were simply brilliant in beating the Warwick Senators 111-88 in last Saturday night’s elimination final with the star-studded starting five producing big time.
It was then a tight affair in Friday’s semi-final against the Willetton Tigers at Willetton Basketball Stadium, but with 36 points and 21 rebounds from Louis Timms and Tevin Jackson controlling the tempo, the Redbacks prevailed 92-90.
That saw them book a preliminary final battle with the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre, and the Redbacks kept the momentum going to lead by as much as 11 points throughout the first half.
The Redbacks couldn’t quite maintain it through the second half, though, with Perry Lakes powering away to the 92-77 win to advance to this Saturday night’s Grand Final.
Starting on Friday night in the semi-final, the Redbacks continued their momentum from last week with two aggressive moves to the basket from Zac Gattorna and Louis Timms for the game’s first four points, but Damien Scott responded with the next four for the Tigers.
Then after Tevin Jackson put the Redbacks up 14-6 and Adam Nener called a timeout, Scott came out and hit the next eight points for Willetton and on the back of his 17 opening quarter points, it was the Tigers leading 28-25 by quarter-time.
It didn’t take long in the second quarter for Perth to regain the lead, though, and it was all on the back of Jackson, Gattorna and Nelson attacking the basket, and the powerful presence of Timms inside.
However, Willetton stayed within touch courtesy of triples from Hunter Clarke and Connor Mincherton, but Perth went into half-time on the back of the last five points to Timms leading 50-48.
It had been a tremendous first half contest with the result tough to pick at the break but it was the Redbacks who threatened to break the game open during the third quarter.
Timms came out to hit his team’s first seven points of the second half before a couple of strong drives and makes from Jackson saw them up four midway through the third period.
Then a Jackson three-point play, Nelson tech foul conversion, and Gattorna bucket had the visitors up five, and then nine on the back of consecutive and-ones going the way of Gattorna where he was awarded for attacking the bucket despite a Willetton defender in his way.
The job was ahead of Willetton to find a way to stop the Redbacks momentum at three quarter-time and that became tougher when Timms drained a three-ball. Timms then helped the Redbacks to a 12-point lead with 6:30 left but Michael Vigor kept Willetton in touch with a three-pointer.
Despite Vigor and then Scott eventually fouling out down the stretch, it was Connor Mincherton that threatened to be the hero for the Tigers.
He hit a three with 5:30 left to make the margin six and then drained another to bring it back to five with 1:15 on the clock. He then attacked the basket and scored soon after to make it a three-point game but couldn’t convert the and-one.
Timms scored a steadier for the Redbacks but Mincherton wasn’t done yet and hit yet another three-ball to make it a two-point ball game with the shot clock turned off.
Willetton fouled Jackson and CJ’s oldest son showed ice in his veins to hit both to seal the eventual 92-90 win for the Redbacks to get them into a preliminary final with Perry Lakes while eliminating Willetton six days after doing the same to Warwick.
Louis Timms was just an unstoppable force for the Redbacks even though Michael Vigor still played well for the Tigers. Timms was a monster, though, with 36 points and 21 rebounds while showing good control of his shot selection going at 16/23 from the field and 3/6 from beyond the arc.
But it was Tevin Jackson who truly was the spark behind the Redbacks performance. He was able to put the clamps on Damien Scott somewhat after quarter-time while also controlling the tempo his team was playing at while delivering 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Zac Gattorna appears on the brink of signing his first deal at an NBL club and showed why with his 19 points and five assists with Marshall Nelson adding nine points, 11 rebounds and four assists, and Joel Wagner four points and four assists.
Then in Saturday night’s preliminary final, finding the energy to take it up to the Hawks who were fresh and also the deepest team in the competition was going to be a test, but the Redbacks sure came out on fire continuing their momentum from the wins over the Senators and Tigers.
The Redbacks had managed to open up a 26-22 lead by quarter-time before a pair of triples to Marshall Nelson and Zac Gattorna saw them up seven early in the second and Hawks coach Matt Parsons went to a quick timeout.
Tevin Jackson then came out and made the lead nine with that advantage growing to 11 soon after with a Louis Timms three-pointer. Mitch Clarke connected with a three just before half-time, though, and Perry Lakes had done well to limit Perth’s lead to 50-45.
The game then underwent a remarkable transformation in the second half.
For the opening 10 quarters of their finals run, the Redbacks played as a tremendous cohesive unit who picked and chose their moments to attack the basket, and settle for jump shots and it was working a treat.
However, once Perry Lakes upped the pressure in the second half and started to apply some scoreboard pressure as well by turning an 11-point deficit into a lead of their own, and the Redbacks went right away from what had been working so well.
The Hawks took full control as a result with 29 points to 10 in the third quarter, and then ending up cruising to the 92-77 victory to advance to their 10th Grand Final where they will attempt to win a seventh championship.
In the end, the Redbacks simply ran out of gas after two outstanding performances and then throwing everything into the first half against the Hawks.
Tevin Jackson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, Marshall Nelson 17 points, eight boards and seven assists, Zac Gattorna 16 points and four rebounds, Louis Timms 15 points and seven boards, and Joel Wagner seven points and six assists.