Olympians win it for Justyce on emotional GABA night as new cop in town scores season-high 53

Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
The Olympians and the Pumas held up images and stood together to remember Justyce Potaka Kumeroa.
Camera IconThe Olympians and the Pumas held up images and stood together to remember Justyce Potaka Kumeroa. Credit: Arctic Moon Photgraphy

Activewest Stadium saw one of its biggest crowds outside of a Buccs home game as basketball fans turned out to pay tribute to Justyce Potaka-Kumeroa and play the game he loved.

Wednesday night saw the Olympians play their first game since the loss of one of their favourite sons, who died in a car crash on Christmas Eve.

The number 14 still walked out on court but this time it was worn by his brother Chance as he took to centre court holding up a family photo as the Olympians and Pumas joined arms in a moving tribute.

Their were plenty of Olympian and tribute shirts in the crowd as family, friends and the basketball community paused for a minute’s silence as they have done for all games this week.

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Afterwards, Liam Hunt brought both teams together in a huddle compelling the sides to play the game that Justyce loved before finishing with a chant of “1,2,3 Justyce”, drawing applause from the crowd.

As the game got under way both sides were trading baskets in the opening minutes with some excellent plays mixed in with smatterings of pedestrianism as the teams looked to find their feet and refocus after an emotionally draining Christmas break.

Johny Narkle was on early driving his way to the rim and showing good basketball IQ to draw fouls from the Pumas defenders.

Johny Narkle led the way with 28 points
Camera IconJohny Narkle led the way with 28 points Credit: Arctic Moon Photgraphy

Harry Evans was leading the way for the Pumas with 12 points in the first half as though the Olympians were more efficient but the Pumas were able to pounce on the loose balls for repeated offensive rebounds to keep themselves on an even footing.

It wasn’t until Richard Bartlett started to fire with back-to-back three-pointers that the Olympians would gain the ascendency as they took a 10-point lead into half time.

They continued to have the running to start the second term and were able to maintain the gap around the 10-point mark as Narkle and Bartlett continued to make the running.

But there was still plenty of time in the game and the Pumas with the help of Tomas Dobson’s threes started to slowly eat into the deficit.

They were passing the ball better to open up gaps on offence while the Olympians were guilty of trying to force plays at times as the gap closed to five points with five minutes to go.

The lead went back up to double digits just a minute later as the Olympians reset and with the help of some free throws held on for a 81-69 victory.

Narkle top scored with 28 despite fouling out towards the end of the game with Bartlett posting 17 with Evans (20), Dobson (19) and Hunt (15) the best for Pumas but they couldn’t find enough from their bench.

It was a terrific performance for the Olympians who beat a top-two side for the first time this year and a fitting celebration for their fallen friend.

Earlier on Wednesday the Hawks were too good for the Trades as they went to the top of the table with a 120-79 victory.

Robert Greichen goes up for a dunk
Camera IconRobert Greichen goes up for a dunk Credit: Jake Santa Maria

It is the first time they’ve broken the 100-point mark since October as the Buccs trio of Robert Greichen, Fletcher Klasztorny and Ryan Blanchett, well supported by Theo Bennett, ran riot.

Blanchett led the way early with some powerful drives to the basket in a hard and fast game.

Joseph Iaria, as he often does, led the way for the Trades but they lacked a bit of luck at times and the Hawks seemed hungrier off the ball and able to punish on rebounds as they led 59-31.

The Hawks continued to lead the way in the second half as though the Trades could hang in with the Hawks inside the paint but they were no match from deep as they hit just one three to the Hawks 15.

Greichen finished with a game-high 29 points while Iaria was best for the Trades with 17.

On Tuesday night Chapman Valley crushed Stateside as new cop in town Russell Hurst dropped 53 points in a season-high performance.

Hurst outscored the entire Stateside who managed just 48 points as he hit seven threes and along with Elliott Bennett (21) helped the Warriors go two games clear in fourth place.

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