The West Adelaide Bearcats are within touching distance of top spot after easily handling the South Adelaide Panthers 83-112 in Marion last Saturday.
Southern’s surprise loss to Forestville means West Adelaide will have a chance to finish top if they can beat the Tigers by 7 points in their final game this coming Saturday.
Needing to take care of the Panthers first, the Bearcats did it with ease; blowing away the bottom five side with clinical shooting to post their highest score of the year.
James Legan (35 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts) shot at 81% from the three-point line in a breathtaking return to form after two down weeks. Jordan West (24 pts, 9 rebs, 1 ast) posted a personal season high in points, Patrick Thomas (10 pts, 10 rebs, 11 asts) recorded his first triple-double of the year and Tom Kubank (22 pts, 9 rebs, 2 asts) continued his stellar run of form with another valuable contribution off the bench.
West Adelaide’s offence was firing on all cylinders, shooting at a deadly 51% from the field, whereas the Panthers looked flustered trying to score, making only 32 of 89 shots. Eian Davis (25 pts, 6 rebs, 3 asts) led his team in points with only Jordan Robertson (9 pts, 14 rebs, 3 stls) and Jack Williams (11 pts, 3 rebs) providing any sort of support.
After one of their best offensive games of the season, Bearcats Coach Corey MacLean is pleased with the way his side is performing at this point of the year.
“You’ve always got concerns, but we’re playing much better basketball,” Coach MacLean says.
“We probably didn’t start all that well in the first half, we played at their pace a little bit, and we weren’t fully locked in defensively.
“But then second half we really shut them down, and we shot the ball really well tonight.”
Although Coach Maclean’s pre-game talk was focused on hitting the opponent early, it was South who got off to a fast start.
Jordan Robertson and Panthers Captain Ben Regester hit two early threes to give South the early jump. Eian Davis then began to give the Bearcats headaches with his ability to penetrate inside, he finished with 12 points in the first quarter.
Down 17-7 after five minutes, West Adelaide’s captain started running the show, recording a total of 6 assists in the first quarter including a cross court alley oop to Kubank. The Bearcats slowly working their way back into the game, cutting South’s lead to 4 points at quarter time.
In spite of some incredibly dull and repetitive banter from the sidelines, West Adelaide couldn’t miss in the second quarter.
10 points from Kubank and 8 from Jordan West helped the Bearcats retake the lead and never look back. A devastating run of 12 unanswered points turned a 37-35 deficit into a 37-47 lead in the space of three minutes.
Although South eventually steadied the ship, they were dealt one final blow when Legan ran down the clock to halftime and hit an improbable buzzer beater three with a hand in his face; the Bearcats going into the main break up 48-56.
Coach MacLean says his side lacked a little bit of defensive intent which kept the game close at halftime despite their offensive dominance.
“We probably didn’t come out with that same intent that we did last week against Centrals,” Coach MacLean says.
“It took us a while to get going, especially defensively.
“We always felt we were getting good shots and we had over 50 points at halftime, but we definitely weren’t at 100% defensively for most of the first half.”
After scoring 34 points in the second quarter, the Bearcats backed it up with another 33 in the third.
Legan’s 13 points for the quarter included a perfect 3 of 3 from the three-point line, and he was well supported by Jordan West who added another 10 to his name.
But in a welcome shift from the first half, the Bearcats clamped down on defence, only allowing the Panthers 13 points.
“We really locked in and concentrated a little bit more, and we strung possessions together defensively,” Coach MacLean says.
“We said that they were on the edge and we just needed to break that edge of the cliff off and they’d fall, and they pretty much did that.”
South’s shots were all over the place in a disastrous third quarter, going 4 of 20 from the field and finding themselves down 61-89 at the final change.
In what was a chippy game throughout, tensions boiled over when Legan hit yet another three in the last quarter. Jack Williams picked up a technical foul for South while the rest of his team remained remarkably willing to chirp despite the lopsided scoreline.
After the short commotion, Anthony Spadavecchia drained a three on his only shot of the night, immediately followed by Kubank slamming down an open dunk to extend the margin to a game-high 41 points.
With the result sealed, Coach MacLean subbed out his starters who all received rapturous applause on their way to the bench—Legan’s performance particularly sticking out.
“9 of 11 from the three-point line is pretty spectacular, he took really good shots tonight,” Coach MacLean says.
“Once he gets cooking, we give him a green light to walk the dog and pull up in people’s faces which he did tonight.
“We always knew he was going to get back to what he is, he had two down weeks for his standards, but he was sensational from the three tonight.”
West Adelaide will need a repeat performance if they are to beat Southern in what shapes up as the most important game of the season so far.