Geraldton Buccaneers book spot in the big dance after fending of Joondalup Wolves
The Geraldton Buccaneers are through to the grand final of the NBL1 West Conference after a resounding victory over the Joondalup Wolves.
It was a rematch of the 2019 SBL final after the Wolves overcame a 14-point deficit in the final quarter against the Goldfield Giants on Friday night.
And like the 2019 decider the Buccs were victorious 107-81 to surge into the grand final.
The Buccs were coming off a dismantling of the Cockburn Cougars and much like their previous encounter, they got off to a hot start.
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A sellout crowd for the second week in a row had plenty to cheer about as they scored a huge 35 points in the first term with excellent shooting from beyond the arc as Cameron Coleman was looking dangerous once again.
Coming off 39 points last week no doubt the Wolfpack would’ve circled him in as a danger man but they could do little to stop him as he dropped 11 points in the first quarter.
But there were points across the board with Shaun Stewart getting his inside game going while Ryan Blanchett and Liam Hunt finished the quarter with a 9-1 run as they led by 17 points at the first term.
However, having come back from 14 points in a quarter just two nights ago the Buccs couldn’t afford to take it easy as the Wolves mounted a fightback in the second term.
After trading baskets initially a seven-point run off the back of impressive work from CJ Turnage brought the margin down to 11 points before a three from Julian Pesava had the lead down to single digits for the first time since the opening quarter.
But this time Stewart took the lead over the Buccs’ other American import Coleman, standing tall, hitting two layups and a turnaround jumper all in 30 seconds to wrestle back the momentum of the match just when it seemed like the Buccs were tightening up under pressure.
A tight period followed with just four points scored across two minutes as both defences went to work, but the Wolves were threatening as a couple of poor turnovers shrunk the lead shrink again.
The tension was high but the Buccs got the perfect relief before the end of the half as Liam Hunt, so often the heart and soul of the team, hit a three to send himself and the crowd into raptures heading into the break.
It was an arm-wrestle in the third as the team traded baskets but no matter how hard the Buccs tried they just couldn’t shake the Wolfpack as they closed to eight points before Ryan Blanchett went down with a nasty-looking knee injury.
The crowd for once was silent as Blanchett was down clutching his knee for some time before he was helped off the court.
But a Coleman three soon had them up again as a run of 12 points to four opened up a break for the Buccs before Hunt again closed out a quarter with a three-pointer.
It was an 18-point lead into the final break and the Buccs made sure there would be no jeopardy in the final quarter as they scored the first 10 points to take the margin to 28.
The two American imports of Stewart and Coleman did the damage and it put the game beyond doubt as they ran out resounding 26-point victors.
Coach Dayle Joseph was proud of the team’s efforts.
“It’s a big relief, the expectation was high coming into the game anything less than a win we would’ve walked away disappointed,” he said.
“Nothing was secure in this league and we knew they would keep coming and the boys did a great job of absorbing and overcoming that pressure.”
In other good news Blanchett his expected to recover in time for the final.
“He’ll be fine we’ve put some ice on his knee but he’ll be ready to go next weekend,” Joseph said.
Stewart led all scorers with 28 points to go with five assists and four rebounds and said the team his full of confidence going into the decider.
“It felt good we played well and hopefully we can carry that over to the grand final,” he said.
“The ability for anyone one of us to pick it up is what makes us such a good team and it’s always a good feeling.
“Rockingham are a good team they’ve been good all season just like us so we just gotta be ready to play.”
The Buccs will take on the Rockingham Flames for championship glory at Bendat Basketball Stadium in Perth this Saturday at 7pm.
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