Men's SBL Grand Final Preview
THE Merriwa Tavern & Bistro Joondalup City Wolves haven’t put a foot wrong heading into Saturday night's men's SBL grand final at Bendat Basketball Centre but the Collie Crane Hire South West Slammers now enter the decider in outstanding form as well.
The Wolves finished the regular season as minor premiers three games clear on top of the standings, but the Slammers started the season off winning 12 of its first 13 games, and now have won seven of its last nine heading into the grand final setting up what should be a tantalising decider.
There are terrific stories surrounding both teams heading into the grand final with Ben Ettridge having returned to the Wolves as coach this season after a two-year absence, and now leading them to the minor premiership and another grand final.
The depth of the Wolfpack this season has been a major reason why they finished clear on top at the end of the regular season, and are now into the grand final.
However, it's not as if they don’t have star power and import big man Kevin Davis has been terrific and deserves to be in MVP calculations having averaged 18.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks a game. If he has 18, 10 and 3 in the grand final, the Wolfpack will be hard to beat.
Then Trian Iliadis, Seb Salinas, Rob Huntington, Damian Matacz, Louis Timms, Ben Ironmonger, Joel Questel, Sean Easther and Jordan Wellsteed all make up a team that has had an outstanding 2015, and loses nothing no matter who is on the floor and who is on the bench.
Meanwhile, the grand final will serve as the farewell to the SBL and the Slammers for playing-coach Ty Harrelson as he dreams of a fairy tale ending to his playing career and his five years playing in Western Australia to round out his on-court days.
Harrelson could very well have a big say in the final result as if his shot starts to fall, and he can lead his team on and off the court, it could go a long way to him getting that dream farewell.
The Slammers will be looking to MVP-candidate Tre Nichols to provide their X-factor with his speed and ability to get to the basket a chance to trouble the Wolves similar to what Bryton Hobbs from the Perry Lakes Hawks was able to do in the quarter finals.
South West will also be looking for Brian Voelkel to provide another strong triple-double with the likes of Trent Worthington, Wade Hitchcock, Jordan Hickert and Aaron Edwards to contribute as well. Edwards is the last remaining player from the Slammers' 1999 championship team.
Following a surprising absence from the playoffs last season, championship winning coach Ben Ettridge has taken back over as coach of the Wolves this season and now the result is a third men's grand final in the last five years.
The Wolfpack won their first men's SBL championship back in 1993 but it was then an 18-year wait for them to even make a grand final again and they managed to beat the Perry Lakes Hawks in 2011 under the guidance of Ettridge.
Under Ettridge, the Wolves then missed the grand final in 2012 but returned in 2013 under Craig Friday losing a thriller to the Lakeside Lightning before surprisingly missing the playoffs in 2014 after injuries late in the season came back to bite.
However, the Wolves have now been the dominant team of 2015 finishing the regular season with a 23-3 record, and after overcoming the Perry Lakes Hawks in three games in the quarter finals, they got by the Rockingham Flames in two games in the semi finals.
The Wolfpack are now in their third grand final in the last five years, and fourth overall on the hunt for a third championship.
For the first 11 years of the SBL, the Slammers were a dominant force winning championships in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999 while also making grand finals in 1991 and 1992.
That gave South West six grand final appearances and four championships in 11 years, but things then went decidedly south.
After ending up fifth in 2001, the Slammers had a disastrous 11-year stretch without a playoff appearance and an overall 46-225 record which included two winless seasons, and two years where they had just the one win.
At the end of 2012, the Slammers knew they had to do something different to become a force again and that's where the appointment of Harrelson as playing-coach came to fruition.
After two good seasons in the SBL as a player with the Cockburn Cougars and Goldfields Giants, Harrelson made the move to Bunbury and outlined a three-year plan that he hoped would set up the Slammers for long-term success.
He did plan on being there for longer than that three years before the job as head coach at his alma mater Wayland Baptist University came up, so now his last night in the SBL and with the Slammers is his first grand final.
The Slammers were a good team making the playoffs the last two years building to what has happened in 2015 where they finished the regular season in third position, and have now come through the first two rounds of the playoffs with sweeps of the Willetton Tigers and Goldfields Giants.
The Slammers have now qualified for their seventh men's SBL grand final, the first since 1999, and are looking for a fifth title and that would also be the first since 1999.
MEN'S SBL GRAND FINAL
Merriwa Tavern & Bistro Joondalup City Wolves v Collie Crane Hire South West Slammers
Bendat Basketball Centre, Saturday night 7.30pm
Tickets available here
Radio: Live on 98five Sonshine FM
Article by Chris Pike