Senators surge to top two threat with five-game winning run
AFTER missing the playoffs altogether in 2015 and then losing the opening two games of 2016 left Bethanie Stirling Senators coach Mike Ellis just looking for an SBL playoffs berth but five straight wins and suddenly a top two finish is within reach.
The West Australian basketball legend stepped up to replace the retired David Lindstrom as coach of the Senators in the Men's SBL for the 2016 season.
There was excitement aplenty surrounding the Senators with the opening of the new Warwick Stadium and a new relationship with the Churches of Christ Sport and Recreation Association helping to secure the club's sustainability.
Ellis turned his attention then to making sure he had a team that would perform strongly on the court.
Obviously his son Cody was to be a big part in that with Kyle Lindbergh the other restricted player with AJ Majstrovich, Tom Witts and Austin Bruton providing the veteran leadership for the likes of Corban Wroe, Ashley Litterick and Jayden Coburn.
The results have been terrific with Ellis leading the way with 23 points and 7.6 points a game while Lindbergh is contributing 17.5 points, 10.7 boards and 4.6 assists and Majstrovich 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Wroe is doing well running the point at 10.9 points and 4.7 assists with Coburn stepping up to deliver 12.9 points, Litterick 8.3 and Bruton 8.3.
The Senators lost their first two games to the Lakeside Lightning and Willetton Tigers before going on a five-game winning run.
Then after a tough loss to the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena back on May 20, Stirling has not lost a game beating the South West Slammers by 42 points and six in back-to-back meetings, the Rockingham Flames by six, Goldfields Giants by 15 points and then last Friday night the defending champion Wolfpack by nine at Warwick Stadium.
It was that win over the Wolves that really showed that the Senators have the ability to be a contender this season and it also sees them improve to a 14-6 record in fourth position but within striking distance of the second placed Joondalup.
Ellis is just happy to have a team in the mix and would like to lock in a top four position first before starting to look too far ahead.
"Our goal was always top four, we knew we had to get top four for that home court advantage. The win over the Wolves was really important for us because this league is awesome," Ellis said.
"I'm loving the league, it's just fantastic. There are some great teams in here. If you drop one game, you can fall three spots, it's really scary."
The Senators now have a double-header to look forward to this weekend at home to the Perry Lakes Hawks on Friday and then away to the East Perth Eagles on Saturday.
With both teams needing a win in the battle for a playoff spot, it's going to be two more tough tests for the Senators and it's the start of a gruelling run with games against the Cougars, Flames and Eagles to come the following three weeks before finishing the season away to the Magic.
Ellis is looking forward to seeing how his group handles a challenge every night particularly the young players and seeing if they can bounce back from tough patches in games to still contribute like Coburn did last Friday against the Wolves.
"They don’t get any easier unfortunately and the hard part is, which is a nice thing, that any team you play in this league will beat you if you don’t come to play, including Kalamunda," Ellis said.
"We have to be ready to play every game we've got left and having that mix of guys like Aussie off the bench is important. He's had some quiet games and he's adjusting to playing less minutes than he has ever played before, but we want him to play less minutes and have more impact.
"That's certainly what he did against the Wolves and that was great because Jayden was off offensively.
"He started the game missing three or four layups but that's what you get with youth. That's what he's got to learn, but he is having a great year and as a team we are heading where we want to be."
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Deprimo Photography