Buccaneers’ defence put squeeze on to tame Wolves in hard-fought home win

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Zac Gattorna dunks one over Mathiang Muo
Camera IconZac Gattorna dunks one over Mathiang Muo Credit: Arctic Moon Photography

It wasn’t always pretty but the Geraldton Buccaneers hung tough on Saturday to down the Joondalup Wolves 74-67 and jump to second on the NBL1West ladder.

The Buccs came in on a four-game win streak along with an unbeaten record at home but the Wolves were victors last time out and had Mathiang Muo, who is no stranger to Activewest Stadium.

However, both teams were without key players, with Liam Hunt still away in the US for the home side while the Wolves made the trip without star import Quinton Dove.

Even without Dove the Wolves broke away, early jumping out to an 11-point lead with Muo dropping seven points in the first five minutes to prove there was no love lost for his old side.

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But the Buccs steadied when captain Aaron Ralph, was introduced with help from star Malik Maunier, to level at 22-22, a fair effort considering how far they looked off the pace in the opening minutes.

The Buccs then dominated the second quarter with 28 points to 12 to see the home team on top by 16 points with Meunier and Zac Gattorna doing the bulk of the scoring as the Buccs’ defence clamped down on the Wolves.

The lead got to as high as 18 points as the Buccs looked in total control, able to shut down CJ Turnage and the 7ft 2 Ioannis Dimakopoulos.

Then Flecther Klasztorny picked up his fourth foul with still a quarter and a half to go and was substituted out, which seem to destabilise the Buccs as the Wolves closed to within seven points.

Wolves’ Bryan Michaels got the hot hand and was hitting shots from everywhere as the Wolves drew level four minutes into the last quarter.

On the other side, the Buccs could not get anything to go in with Shaun Stewart’s three the only bucket to come from open play in the last quarter until the dying seconds.

Their shooting percentage dropped to zero from inside the arc as they had to work overtime in defence to hold on to their lead.

But work they did as while the Wolves threatened they could never get the margin to within one basket, with Meunier capping off the win with a fast break lay-up in the closing seconds to extend the Buccs’ win streak to five games.

Coach Dayle Joseph acknowledged his team was below their best but was happy to be able to grind out the win.

“We were shooting poorly, we just couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the hoop but credit to the Wolves though, we were scoring freely in transition and they were able to shut us down and make it really hard for us,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our defence, so I think we did a pretty good job we had to adjust a bit as without Dove they played Dimakopoulos for nearly 30-odd minutes which was a challenge but the boys stood tall and really helped us out even though we weren’t scoring.”

The win puts the Buccs in second with a 10-3 record, Meunier once again the star with 26 rebounds and five assists with Gattorna the only other Bucc to break double figures finishing with 17 points and five rebounds.

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