Week 1 Friday night men's SBL results
SHAWN Redhage and Alex Loughton lighting it up for the Perth Redbacks in the SBL was the story of the opening night but the Stirling Senators also made a statement with a stunning upset over the Perry Lakes Hawks.
There was plenty of excitement surrounding the SBL debut of NBL legend Redhage with the Redbacks in Rockingham against the Flames on Friday.
That went up another level with the announcement he would be joined by former Perth Wildcats teammate and Cairns Taipans foe Loughton.
The pair didn’t fail deliver combining for 56 points and 16 rebounds on 17-of-31 shooting from the field and 19-of-21 at the line as the Redbacks beat the Flames 102-77 to open the 2017 SBL season at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
The other two Friday night season-opening matches saw the East Perth Eagles defeat the Kalamunda Eastern Suns 92-75 at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
In the upset of the night, the restricted player-less Stirling Senators beat the Perry Lakes Hawks in a heated affair 94-87 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Rockingham was the scene for Redhage and Loughton lining up for the Redbacks on the one SBL team, and it was quite the spectacle.
Redhage started the game and went on to score 20 points in the first half on his way to 35 for the night. He showed off much more of his inside game not attempting a three and shooting 11-of-18 from the field, and getting to the line 14 times and hitting 13.
Loughton came off the bench and finished up with 21 points and 11 rebounds including 3-of-5 from three-point territory.
It would have been quite the thrill for the young Redbacks to play with Redhage and Loughton who have combined for almost 650 games in the NBL.
Isaac Gattorna stepped up with 11 points with Jack Wagner adding eight and Kyle Bowen seven. Captain Joel Wagner had seven points and three assists.
It was a lot for the young Flames outfit to try and overcome but Vinnie Zollo finished with 17 points, Justin Beard 15, Beau Samuelson 13, Donovan Jack 13 and Ryan Godfrey 10.
Then at Morley, East Perth made a good start to its season as it attempts to return to being a force in the men's SBL in 2017.
The Eagles also were without import signings Kevin Anthony and Kevin Davis, but were impressive in the 17-point win with Joondalup recruit Ngor Manyang delivering his career-best performance with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Drew Williamson showed he has plenty left to offer providing 22 points and five assists for the Eagles while Wildcats development player Mason Bragg had 13 points and six assists. Andrej Donlagic added 12 points also for East Perth.
The Eastern Suns were also minus imports Rob Brandenberg and Courtney Belger, but competed hard. Tim Squire top-scored with 14 points while Theron Pinker added 13, Billy Grey 12 and Nathan Drown 10.
And at Bendat Basketball Centre, the Hawks entered the new season with high expectations with the arrival of two-time SBL Coach of the Year and reigning championship-winning coach Matt Parsons.
They were without Matthew Adekponya, but all signs were pointing to them being too strong for a young Senators team who had a far from ideal preparation coming into 2017.
Corban Wroe and Rhys Vague had little time to settle in after the season at the Wildcats where they played in the championship in the NBL as development players. Then they found out import Kyle Lindbergh wouldn’t be returning after banking on him while Cody Ellis wasn’t ready to go either.
But the Senators stood tall in a spirited performance. They did have an 11-point lead with seven minutes left after things threatened to spill out of control with tempers flaring.
The Hawks hit back to draw level, but to Stirling's credit they steadied to win by seven.
Vague might not have been the hit court much during the NBL season, but he shook off the cobwebs with the Senators leading the way with 23 points and six rebounds. He hit 4-of-5 from three-point land.
Wroe added 20 points too while Ashley Litterick battled manfully against Brian Carlwell to finish with 18 points, four rebounds and four steals.
The young players were most exciting for the Senators with Jayden Coburn adding seven points, Jay Thwaites six and then teenager Oliver Cross adding great energy in six points in his 11 minutes.
Robert Waters debuted for the Hawks with 23 points but his night was hampered by foul trouble. Captain Ben Purser did all he could for 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Ryan Smith added 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists before fouling out late with Carlwell contributing 16 points, seven boards and three blocks.
It was also terrific for Rob Cassir to return to the floor after a career-threatening knee injury. He had three points, three rebounds and two steals in 19 minutes.
Afterwards, Senators coach Mike Ellis couldn’t have been more delighted, or surprised, with the performance by his team with his son Cody sitting on the bench next to him and a replacement for Lindbergh still yet to be found.
"The thing that was most impressive for me as a coach was that we discussed some things at half-time about what we were and weren’t doing. The guys came out in the second half and actually did it," Ellis said.
"We had such a young group out there and to come out and win in here, was just a hell of a win. Coming here, there's no way in hell I would have believed you if you said we would win like that. There's just no way I was expecting it.
"Corban came out and just enjoyed getting on the floor to play some minutes and Rhys is still out of sorts because he hasn’t played in so long. We still have a way to go with him even though he got some numbers. But overall it was just really pleasing to get that done with cameos from the young boys.
"To respond to their challenge late in the game was impressive too. We've been working on the culture in the club for all of last year and my long-term plan has been to change that culture of hoping to win, to wanting them to have an expectation of winning.
"You then have to do what it takes to win and they did that. Last year we probably would have lost that game, so for me that's a big step forward for the group and especially the young guys. It was a massive performance and for them to make big plays and good decisions, will be great for them."
Round 1 of the 2017 SBL season continues on Saturday night sees the Perth Redbacks host the Goldfields Giants. Loughton will play but Redhage won't for Perth.
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns also host the Geraldton Buccaneers while the Joondalup Wolves play the Cockburn Cougars in a rematch of last year's grand final. The other two games feature the South West Slammers up against the Lakeside Lightning and the Willetton Tigers hosting the Mandurah Magic.
FRIDAY NIGHT ROUND 1 MEN'S SBL RESULTS
East Perth Eagles 92 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 75
Rockingham Flames 77 lost to Perth Redbacks 102
Perry Lakes Hawks 87 lost to Stirling Senators 94
SATURDAY NIGHT ROUND 1 MEN'S SBL FIXTURES
Perth Redbacks v Goldfields Giants – Belmont Oasis 7.30pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Geraldton Buccaneers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 7.30pm
Joondalup Wolves v Cockburn Cougars – Joondalup Basketball Stadium 8pm
South West Slammers v Lakeside Lightning – Eaton Recreation Centre 8pm
Willetton Tigers v Mandurah Magic – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8pm
Photo by Vikki Hile