It was the Perth Redbacks’ Grand Final MVP from 2017 that helped make Friday night a challenge but the Spiders hit back well on Saturday night to record a West Coast Classic opening win in Mandurah.
The basketball action officially got underway on the weekend with Round 1 of the West Coast Classic which was created in place of the SBL season that was forced to be cancelled courtesy of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
But the delayed start to the action was put all behind us on the weekend when the basketball got underway and it started for the Redbacks on Friday night against the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena, but it was Lee Roberts and the Wolfpack who prevailed 98-80.
The Redbacks then remained on the road 24 hours later to take on the Mandurah Magic at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, but this time it was a victory for Perth to the tune of 83-72.
It was always going to be a challenging start on Friday night away to the Wolves with Joondalup having added SBL championship winning pair Lee Roberts and Lochlan Cummings on the eve of the season to a group still featuring Seb Salinas, Trian Iliadis, Rob Huntington and Ben Ironmonger.
It was also the start of a new era for both clubs with Ben Ettridge no longer in charge of the Wolves and Nik Lackovic no longer coaching the Redbacks after both took their teams to championships during extremely successful tenures.
The Redbacks actually started well at HBF Arena and were on top by five points early doors, but the Wolves were able to work their way on top to be up eight by quarter-time and extend that advantage to 55-42 by the half-time break.
The Redbacks were able to stick with the Wolfpack through the second half but never truly threaten to close the gap with the home team going on to win 98-80.
Zac Gattorna, fresh off spending the past NBL season with the Adelaide 36ers, top-scored for the Redbacks with 14 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
Dennis Tawhiti added 12 points and six rebounds for the Redbacks with Marshall Nelson contributing 11 points and eight assists, Joel Wagner 10 points and seven assists, and Ethan Vlahov eight points.
Tevin Jackson also finished with six points and four rebounds while Caleb White had six points, Ezra Nikora four points, Michael Riley four points, Neema Kazemi three points and Lachlan Bertram two to go with three rebounds.
It was then a quick turnaround for the Redbacks to go from playing in Joondalup on Friday night to Mandurah on Saturday, and with both teams coming off losses to open the West Coast Classic, there was plenty on the line.
It was a tight first half as well with the Magic leading by one at the end of the first period, and then the Redbacks only managing to narrowly pull away and lead 38-36 by the half.
The difference proved to be the third quarter with the Redbacks impressing by putting 28 points and then going on to lead the game by as much as 16 points and going on to win by 11 to open their West Coast Classic account.
Zac Gattorna backed up his game on Friday with another strong showing made up of 20 points, five rebounds and two assists on shooting an efficient 9/14 from the floor.
Marshall Nelson also produced 20 points and seven rebounds with Caleb White putting up 16 points, five boards, two assists and two steals.
Tevin Jackson finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists with Dennis Tawhiti adding five points and eight boards, Ethan Vlahov three points and three boards, David Swaby two points, Neema Kazemi two points and Joel Wagner two to go with three assists.
The Redbacks are now at home for the first time in the West Coast Classic this Friday night to host the Cockburn Cougars before taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday evening.
WEST COAST CLASSIC ROUND 1 – MEN
Perth Redbacks 80 lost to Joondalup Wolves 98 – HBF Arena
Perth Redbacks 83 defeated Mandurah Magic 72 – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre