Week 1 Sunday Men's SBL Quarter Final wrap
A DRAMATIC 18 hours at Mike Barnett Sports Complex ended in spectacular fashion on Sunday afternoon with the Geraldton Buccaneers pulling off a remarkable comeback to beat the Rockingham Flames by two points after the game was postponed from Saturday night.
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday night and both teams were ready to go with the national anthem playing at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
But a fatal accident nearby took out a power pole and led to a significant blackout in the area. After both teams waited more than an hour, it was decided to play the game on Sunday afternoon.
The end result was the standout game of the opening weekend of SBL finals for 2016 and after trailing all game, the S&K Electrical Geraldton Buccaneers delivered a remarkable fourth quarter to shock the Nags Head Tavern & Bistro Rockingham Flames to win 107-105.
It was the last of the four Game 1 quarter-final match ups with the Buccs joining their fellow top four teams winning after the Willetton Tigers defeated the Stirling Senators 110-97, the Joondalup Wolves beat the Perth Redbacks 110-95 and the Cockburn Cougars downed the Perry Lakes Hawks 109-104.
But the Buccaneers were the only higher ranked team to win on the road as they now host Game 2 against the Flames at Active West Stadium on Saturday night, followed by the Game 3 on Sunday if it's required.
The Flames and Buccs series finally got underway at midday on Sunday and things were relatively tight for the first half, but it was the home team who looked to have the edge.
With Cooper Land outstanding, the Flames managed to lead by six points at quarter-time and then stretched that to eight points by half-time.
Rockingham appeared to set up the Game 1 victory on its home floor before heading to Geraldton next weekend opening up a 15-point advantage by three quarter-time.
Another basket from Cooper Land and then a put back by Chudier Pal to open the fourth period saw them lead by 19 points as well but the Buccs weren’t ready to jump on the bus without the victory.
By the time Jackson Hussey scored with just over six minutes remaining, scores were tied up with the Buccaneers having gone on a stunning 21-2 run after being down by 19.
The visitors had all the momentum by that stage and went in front with a pair of Aaron Ralph free-throws to set up a frantic final five minutes.
The Flames regained a one-point lead with a Cooper Land triple before Hussey and Maurice Barrow took the Buccaneers up 99-96 after hitting shots.
The Buccs then led 102-96 after a triple from Charles Thurkle as their run extended 30-11.
The Flames too weren’t ready to surrender nailing consecutive triples to Cooper Land and Ryan Godfrey to tie scores up again with less than two minutes remaining. Following two Carter Cook free-throws, Godfrey nailed a three to put Rockingham up 105-104.
But it was all Geraldton from there with a turnover from Godfrey and basket to Hussey, missed shot from Godfrey and then the game was iced with a free-throw at the line by Ralph for the Buccs and the Flames unable to snatch the game again with a buzzer-beater.
Geraldton came into the game without Matthew Adekponya who is currently in Brazil and they needed someone to fill his shoes. Hussey turned out to be the man finishing with 39 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals shooting 16-of-28 from the field.
Barrow also had a strong game for the Buccs with 27 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals shooting 11-of-19 from the floor while Carter Cook added 16 points and eight boards, Mat Wundenberg 10 points and six rebounds, and Ralph eight points and nine boards.
Cooper Land did all he could for the Flames finishing the game with 37 points, six rebounds and three assists before fouling out late.
Godfrey finished with 22 points for Rockingham, Pal 14 points and 18 rebounds, Matthew Honey 10 points and Luke Roberts 10 points, five boards and three assists.
Taylor Land led the team well with 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals but shot just 1-of-13 from the field and 0-of-3 at the free-throw line for two points.
Geraldton coach Aaron Trahair made perseverance his word of the game for the Buccs and that was exactly the word he used to describe their remarkable win in the finish given they were down 19 points in the fourth quarter and without their superstar Adekponya.
"Perseverance was the main word used all day even before the game. Rockingham has been playing as well as anybody the past three or four weeks heading into the finals so we knew it was going to be a hard day at the office to get the win," Trahair said.
"Being without Adekponya as well it made things a little bit more difficult for us because when you've had someone all year who was the main focus offensively, to take him out when you do rely on him to do so much I thought for the most part the boys did well.
"We had our moments during the game where we lost our way, but we persevered and stuck to our game plan pretty well for the most part.
"Rockingham probably gave us a little bit of a window and a chance there late in the game and to our credit we really took it with both hands. Then we got on a roll and momentum turned our way, and we came away with a pretty exciting win at the end of the day."
As for the way the situation was handled on Saturday night with the power blackout and the game rescheduled, it's not something Trahair has experienced before and he felt the final solution was the best anyone could have hoped for.
"It's not something that I've been involved with before having to deal with that sort of thing but in saying that I thought for the most part it was handled as well as anything could in that situation," Trahair said.
"As we hinted at last night, the obvious way to go about it was to play the game at 12 o'clock today back at Rockingham and that's what eventuated.
"It is what it is and it wasn’t an easy thing to have to go through, but I think for the most part it was handled pretty well and the most common sense solution was what ended up happening."
SUNDAY MEN'S SBL QUARTER FINAL MATCHES
Nags Head Tavern & Bistro Rockingham Flames 105 lost to S&K Electrical Geraldton Buccaneers 107
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Natasha Gilmartin