The Perth Redbacks sent a message they will be a force this NBL1 West season bouncing back from a shock Thursday night loss to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns to beat the Geraldton Buccaneers 96-80 in Karratha.
It was the lone Round 2 Saturday night NBL1 West match with the game the only one for the Buccs for the Easter Weekend while the Redbacks arrived in Karratha high on motivation after a surprise loss on the road to the Eastern Suns on Thursday night.
Geraldton hadn't lost a regular season game since July 23 last year going on to finish the 2022 season in top spot before huge wins over Cockburn and Joondalup on the way to the Grand Final where they just came up short to Rockingham.
The Buccs then started 2023 in emphatic fashion last Saturday night beating the South West Slammers by 61 points, and they started well again in Karratha with Zac Gattorna leading the charge in his 112th game, but first ever against his former Redbacks team.
The Buccaneers did work their way on top of the Redbacks late in the first quarter and then were up nine midway through the second term, but Perth responded well and managed to take a two-point lead into half-time.
From there, the Redbacks produced a standout second half outscoring the Buccs 49 points to 35 to claim the 16-point victory in a performance that would have delighted new coach Charles Nix.
As the game progressed, the pressure of the Redbacks led by point guard Bryton Hobbs helped force the Buccs into 20 turnovers and with five steals to go with 22 points, three assists and three rebounds, Hobbs was terrific.
Brian Voelkel showed that he will be every bit the force he was in his previous stints in the league at the South West Slammers. He delivered a triple-double consisting of 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Louis Timms finished with 16 points and two steals while Sioeli Vaiangina was impressive for Perth too with 18 points and four rebounds, Tevin Jackson 13 points and six boards, and Maris Colton 11 points and five rebounds.
It was a tough night for the Buccs backcourt with Shaun Stewart, Malik Meunier and Johny Narkle combining to shoot just 11/32 and having 12 turnovers.
Meunier still finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals with Liam Hunt putting up 13 points and eight boards, Gattorna 12 points and five boards against his former team, Stewart 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, and Ryan Blanchett 10 points and four boards.
Aaron Ralph hit 3/6 from downtown on his way to 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. Those triples took him to 1015 on his career as he chases down the league record of 1092 by Ryan Neill.
The Buccs made a fast start beginning with a three-pointer to power forward Ryan Blanchett before Zac Gattorna connected on three free-throws, and threw down an early dunk in his first game against his former team.
The Redbacks did well to steady, though, and soon took the early advantage on the back of buckets to Tevin Jackson and Jacob Formosa before Blanchett nailed his second triple of the opening five and-a-bit minutes.
Jackson responded in kind for the Redbacks before Brian Voelkel stretched the Perth lead to four when he forced the turnover on Liam Hunt and scored and converted the and-one.
But Aaron Ralph then hit the floor for Geraldton and hit a trademark three-pointer, the 1013th of his career, and then five quick Fletcher Klasztorny points gave the Buccs the 28-23 quarter-time edge.
A second three-point play of the night to Voelkel then helped the Redbacks close the game to start the second period but the Buccs responded thanks to a huge putback slam from Gattorna.
Gattorna was fouled shooting a three soon after for the second time in the game, this time by former teammate Kyden Edman.
The Buccaneers were threatening to open up a handy lead starting with a triple to Shaun Stewart before he scored again on the fast break, and then Gattorna threw down his third dunk of the game and converted it into a three-point play.
A second triple to Ralph stretched the Geraldton lead to nine but the Redbacks were not only able to stem the tide, but wrestle back the momentum. So much so that when Voelkel got the offensive rebound and put back just before half-time, Perth was leading 47-45 at the break.
The Redbacks kept the momentum going to start the second half with at three ball to big man Sioeli Vaiangina. When his fellow former Joondalup teammate Maris Colton nailed one from deep too, suddenly the Redbacks were up nine having trailed by that margin late in the first half.
Vaiangina drilled his second three of the half to keep the Redbacks up by nine and that was still their advantage by three quarter-time with another backcourt steal from Hobbs leading to yet another finish in the open floor.
It was Redbacks captain Jackson who made his mark to start the fourth quarter too, starting with a strong move and finish against old teammate Gattorna. He drew the foul too for the three-point play and when he scored again on the break with just over six minutes to go, his team was up 81-65.
The Redbacks continued to have all the answers down the stretch and ultimately a three-pointer from Louis Timms with three minutes to play just before he fouled out had them back up 12, and they would end up winning by 16.