The West Adelaide Bearcats are one step closer to a home final after taking care of a lacklustre Central Districts with a crushing 101-63 win at home.
The victory puts them just two games short of Southern who suffered their first loss of the season, but more significantly keeps the Bearcats in second position with two games to play.
Despite being without Tobias Dowdell and Fabian Johnson, West Adelaide made short work of a Centrals side which remains just one game from the bottom of the ladder.
Tom Kubank (25 pts, 10 rebs, 3 asts) continued his impressive run of form since his return from college, while Patrick Thomas (20 pts, 7 rebs, 6 asts), Blake Truslove (8 pts, 11 rebs) and Tristan Braithwaite (12 pts) all played a part in an even team contribution.
Ricardo Martin (16 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast) top-scored for Centrals but had little support. Jimma Dau (10 pts, 3 rebs) the only other Lion to reach double figures.
Bearcats Coach Corey MacLean says his side’s focus was on killing the game off early.
“We spoke about putting pressure on them early, trying to punch them in the face nice and early which I thought we did a really good job of,” Coach MacLean says.
“We got up by 17 in the first quarter—we came out with the right intent.”
Jordan West got the Bearcats off to the perfect start with a crafty reverse layup on the game’s first play. His work inside was immediately backed up by James Legan and Patrick Thomas who hit threes on consecutive possessions.
While Legan and Thomas put on the early fireworks, it was Tom Kubank who would put Centrals to the sword. His 10 first-quarter points displaying his skills inside and outside the arc.
The Bearcats were clearly switched on early, and their ball movement showed some significant signs of improvement from previous weeks—West Adelaide up 6-1 in assists at quarter time.
Coach MacLean says he was much happier with his team’s offensive performance.
“Our pace was better tonight, especially in the first half we moved the ball,” says Coach MacLean.
“We worked each other, our pace was good, we probably turned the ball over a little bit too much but overall it did move a little bit better.”
The Bearcats finished with 21 assists and 17 turnovers on the night.
Down 28-11 at quarter time, Centrals started the second quarter with a sloppy turnover, an apt representation of their mediocre first half. The Bearcats piled on the pain with 9 unanswered points to create a 37-11 buffer.
West Adelaide’s defence was also firing on all cylinders, keeping the Lions to 22 points in the first half.
Coach MacLean says his team had a plan in place to ensure they could compensate for their lack of size without Dowdell.
“Tom (Kubank) spent a lot of time at the five,” says Coach MacLean.
“We played a fair bit of zone tonight which we don’t normally do, that was trying to counter their size with our lack of size.”
At halftime, the game was well and truly over with the score reading 53-22.
West Adelaide’s starters stayed in the game for the third quarter and Kubank showed no mercy with another 7 points to add to Centrals’ misery.
Although Legan had another relatively quiet game, he got in on the action with a deadly step back jumper on Ramiah Simpson; freezing the defender to create space for his shot.
Up 31 points at three-quarter time, Coach MacLean started putting his reserves in the game who gave the crowd some late entertainment.
Lachlan Haufe (7 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast) made the most of his cameo performance; a tough three-point play in transition his highlight of the night.
Matt Fauser (8 pts, 2 rebs) and Lucas Valk (4 pts, 4 rebs, 2 asts) also got on the board late to the delight of the crowd, and the reserves side scored 31 points in the last quarter highlighting West Adelaide’s depth heading into finals.
Coach MacLean says he is happy with his team’s fitness at this point in the year and was proud of the way his younger players performed.
“I think we’re in pretty good nick,” says Coach MacLean.
“Your young guys put in the same amount of work as the older guys.
“They rock up to training week in week out so it was good to be able to give them a good run, and I thought they were really good in that last quarter.”
With just two games remaining, second spot is West Adelaide’s to lose, a fact Coach MacLean is well aware of.
“For us, we’ve just got to keep winning, we’ve got to take care of South next week,”
“We’ve got a game buffer on Norwood, if we take care of our business it doesn’t matter.”
The Bearcats take on South Adelaide in Marion on Saturday, an opponent they handled comfortably in round 8 with a 102-74 victory.