The West Adelaide Bearcats have moved back into second position after escaping with a hard-fought 74-78 win over the Woodville Warriors in Wayville.
In a testy encounter which included five technical fouls, the Bearcats rallied to overcome a 12-point deficit and secure their fourth win in a row.
In a relatively low scoring game, three Bearcats registered double-doubles. Tobias Dowdell (18 pts, 12 rebs, 3 asts) continued his stellar season with help from Tom Kubank (15 pts, 10 rebs) and Jordan West (15 pts, 10 rebs, 1 ast).
Jonathan Perry (24 pts, 10 rebs) excelled in his return for Woodville, while Everett Osborne (21 pts, 10 rebs, 5 asts) and James Peters (12 pts, 3 rebs) gave the Bearcats headaches all night.
Norwood’s loss to North Adelaide means the Bearcats now sit in second at 12-3, still three games behind the undefeated Southern Tigers.
The Bearcats wore black armbands to pay tribute to Tobias Dowdell’s mother who passed away during the week.
In spite of tragic personal circumstances, Dowdell put in a spirited performance to top score for his team once again.
Bearcats Coach Corey MacLean says he is incredibly proud of the way his star import handled himself throughout the week.
“He’s one of the best guys that you can meet,” says Coach MacLean.
“We played tonight with a heavy heart for him, obviously a very tough week for him and he’s kept his head up, he’s stayed positive, he’s trained hard and he’s been himself which is a credit to him.
“He’ll dedicate the rest of his season to his Mum’s memory and hopefully we can do right by that.”
Despite being firm favourites, the Bearcats conceded momentum to Woodville early in the game.
Perry’s hot hand from outside got the Warriors out to an 11-4 lead. His combination with the hard-hitting approach of Osborne proving a difficult 1-2 punch for West Adelaide to deal with.
Slowly edging their way back into the contest, the Bearcats tied the game at 20-20 after a Jordan West three; his first points since returning from injury.
Coach MacLean says Jordan’s presence in the line-up was crucial to getting over the line.
“It was great to have Jordy back,” says Coach MacLean.
“He’s one of our most important players, he just brings toughness and rebounding, and he can shoot the ball from outside.
“We probably played him a little bit too much, he was meant to play 16 minutes, but we got 20 out of him.”
Temperatures rose in the second quarter as Tristan Braithwaite was ejected after two technical fouls in quick succession.
The Warriors capitalised, and It was Osborne who was once again leading Woodville’s offence, adding 12 points to his total while creating 6 points off assists.
West Adelaide looked like they were losing their composure, and after Perry drained another inside look the Bearcats found themselves down 9 points with three minutes left till halftime.
A timeout gave West Adelaide a chance to regroup, and 6 points from Jordan West just before the half ensured the Bearcats would stay in touch despite a chaotic quarter.
Coach MacLean says his side’s lack of intensity let Woodville into the game.
“They hit some tough shots in that first half I thought we let them play a little bit too comfortable and that got their confidence up, Coach MacLean says.
“I was probably more concerned with our effort and intent in the first half.”
Although only down by 6 points, the Bearcats had a mountain to climb in the second half.
With their captain in foul trouble, Braithwaite ejected, West on a supposed minutes restriction and James Legan not firing at his typical level; the Bearcats lost the third quarter and were forced to grind out an ugly win in the last ten minutes.
Although Legan finished the day at 18% shooting, Coach Maclean was happy with the manner in which the rest of his team stepped up.
“If you take your team’s leading scorer out, most teams will struggle,” Coach MacLean says.
“But we still had four guys in double figures, managed to get 78 points which if your defence is on task you’ll win a lot of games.”
Having lost the first three quarters of the game, the Bearcats saved their best till last, a huge block from Dowdell early in the last quarter set the defensive tone for his team.
With five minutes left and the contest evenly poised at 74-71, the Warriors were shut out for the remainder of the game.
5 points from Tom Kubank and a pair of free throws from Dowdell got West Adelaide over the line in the end. Woodville’s offensive ineptitude was poetically summed up by an Osborne airball in the dying stages.
While first place may be out of reach, the Bearcats will hope they can continue to put pressure on Southern by beating the 3-12 Lions this coming Saturday.