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Geraldton Buccaneers hold on for seven point win over Tigers in a night of celebration

Headshot of Fraser Williams
Fraser WilliamsGeraldton Guardian
Club legend Mat Wundenberg running out for his 500th game.
Camera IconClub legend Mat Wundenberg running out for his 500th game. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography/Arctic Moon Photography

The Buccaneers brought home a 102-95 win over the Willetton Tigers in Mat Wundenberg’s 500th game on Saturday in front of a sold out crowd, as the club hung their championship banner from the 2023 season.

It was a night for celebration as the Buccs played their first game of the season in front of a sold out Activewest Stadium, with the action kicking off with the unveiling of their NBL1 West 2023 championship banner.

The 2023 NBL1 West championship banner hanging in the rafters.
Camera IconThe 2023 NBL1 West championship banner hanging in the rafters. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography/Arctic Moon Photography

The packed out Geraldton crowd had the chance to take part in the celebration and honour club legend Wundenberg as he played his 500th game, becoming just the third player in league history to do so.

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In their first game of the season, the Buccs were up against a strong Willetton side, and Geraldton came out with the starting line up of Johny Narkle, Liam Hunt, Ryan Blanchett and the two newest recruits Nik DeSantis and Josh Keyes.

The Buccs came out firing with grand final MVP Narkle sinking a dagger three for their first score of the season, as the side put up a 32-point first quarter.

Some early hiccups allowed Willetton to grab easy scores, but Geraldton found their groove with DeSantis bringing the ball up and initiating the offence through the Buccs scorers.

As captain Aaron Ralph subbed into the game he immediately scored from deep and opened the floor up for the Buccaneers.

The squad found patches of their late season dominance, and brought the lead out to 11 points at the top of the second period.

Willetton closed the gap going into the half, but Geraldton responded in the third term and found scoring off turnovers from the Tigers, extending the lead to 14 points in the fourth.

Nik DeSantis took over in his first game as a Buccaneer.
Camera IconNik DeSantis took over in his first game as a Buccaneer. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography/Arctic Moon Photography

Despite leading the entire game, the Buccs were still pushed to the very end with the margin down to just three points with 1min. 30sec. remaining in the game.

Big defensive plays from Keyes and Bob Griechen were crucial in helping the Buccs bring home the win, both coming in clutch with big time blocks to shut down a Tigers comeback.

An impact dunk from Griechen put an end to the game and sent the Tigers home with a 102-95 loss.

DeSantis had 21 points and seven assists, Narkle had 19 points, eight rebounds six assists, Griechen scored a career high 16 points and two blocks and Aaron Ralph 14 points and six rebounds, along with contributions from Hunt and Keyes.

After leading the team in scoring in his first game, DeSantis said it was great to finally get out on the court with the new group.

“Really good, we’ve worked really hard, we’re continuing to build on it, it’s the first game of the year, it’s a long year ... but I think we’ve done pretty well to get the job done in the first game,” he said.

“So we’re still a new group, but we played hard out there and that’s kind of what got the job done in the end.”

The two newest Buccaneers Josh Keyes and Nik DeSantis against the Tigers Roosevelt Williams Jr.
Camera IconThe two newest Buccaneers Josh Keyes and Nik DeSantis against the Tigers Roosevelt Williams Jr. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography/Arctic Moon Photography

The interstate import said playing at Activewest Stadium in front of the Geraldton crowd was unlike any other home atmosphere.

“It was awesome, the crowd was amazing, nothing I’ve experienced before and I think that really drove us in the end,” DeSantis said.

“I mean nothing compares to where I’ve played, the energy, it’s unmatched so it’s awesome to finally get out there.”

The Buccaneers now go on the road with back-to-back games against the South West Slammers and Mandurah Magic on April 13-14.

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