JAY Bowie scored 26 points and hit the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to help Willetton Tigers defeat Perth Redbacks 101-100 in a thrilling game in the SBL on Friday night.
With 5.5 seconds left in overtime, and his team down 98-100 to a strong Redbacks team, Tigers coach Stephen Black called a timeout and drew up one final play in the hope of getting the ball inside and tying things up to force a second round of overtime, but star import Bowie had other ideas.
Bowie received the ball from the inbound pass beyond the three-point line, dribbled out the remaining few seconds, then with a defender in his face, rose up and knocked down the game-winning shot to stun the crowd at Belmont Oasis, handing the Tigers their eighth straight victory on a night that looked like the streak might be broken.
“That was not even close to what I drew up, and I told him that, and he said he didn’t care,” Black said after the game.
“He was looking inside on that play, and we didn’t have it, and then he had that option to either get to the middle of the keyway or do what he decided to. So if he wants to go-ahead and win it, I’m not going to argue with him.”
The game was a clash of two of the leagues heavyweights, with the first placed Tigers putting their winning-streak on the line against the fourth placed Redbacks who are led by former Perth Wildcats champion Shawn Redhage, and the game did not disappoint.
As they often do, the Tigers came out firing and jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, but the Redbacks responded swiftly through the likes of Redhage and shooting guard Ben Smith, and by quarter-time had wrestled back the momentum and taken a five-point lead, 30-25.
The class and skill of Redhage has been a huge factor in the Redbacks resurgence this season and his 29 points helped them maintain the lead for most of the game.
But the Redbacks cost themselves dearly by missing free-throws and giving away a technical foul down-the-stretch, which left the door open for the Tigers to work their way back, and ultimately, for Bowie to snatch the victory.
“I thought more than anything we just hung in there,” Black said.
“I thought we played some great defence at times, and then our defence would let us down a little bit, but I’m just so proud of the way that the last quarter and overtime was played and how high the standard was.”
Damien Scott top scored for Willetton with 29 points and hit several important shots to help the Tigers stay within touching distance when the Redbacks were threatening to pull away.
Ray Turner – playing against his former team for the first time – had a tough and physical battle against Redhage but he still managed to add 23 points and 15 rebounds.
If both the Tigers and the Redbacks continue to play the way they have been, it looks highly possible they could see each other again later in the year, possibly deep into the playoffs, and Tigers coach Black knows the challenges the Redbacks bring to the table.
“They’re just an exceptional offensive team, they’ve got talent everywhere, and they’re only going to get better. They’ve got shooters, they’ve got playmakers, they are for real, and it’s what makes this win really proud, because they can really play,” Black said.
The Tigers remain clear in first place, and will have a chance to extend their win streak to nine when they host the Lakeside Lightning on Friday night.