DEFT from the Cockburn Cougars, uncharacteristically rusty from the Joondalup Wolves and that was the difference in the State Basketball League grand final.
Cockburn took the lead two minutes into the first quarter and remained in front for the remainder of the contest, securing a 96-84 championship win.
The Cougars led by as much as 18 points in the second quarter but the Wolves chipped away to bring it back to eight points early in the final term.
Spectators began to creep towards the edge of their seats at that point, but as the Cougars had done all night, they found the answers, disallowing the defending champions to get any closer.
It was a simple matter of inaccuracy costing the Wolves, which particularly stung when Cockburn was making the most of their opportunities.
The first half was killer from Cockburn and the killer for Joondalup.
The eventual champions shot at 49 per cent from the field up to half time, while the Wolves managed just 31.1 per cent including 2-17 at the three-point arc.
Joondalup improved to 36.6 per cent at game’s end, with the Cougars dropping slightly to 45.7, hitting just 1-9 from downtown.
Wolves captain Seb Salinas had struggled early, but appeared intent on turning his side’s fortune around after half time knocking down back-to-back threes early in the third quarter before a classy drive to the basket gave him eight points within minutes.
The captain paid respect to his opposition after the game:
“You guys played outstanding tonight… you played well at the right time of the year,” he said.
The Wolves third period was their best, winning the quarter 24-20 and giving them some hope with the scores at 71-60 heading into the final term.
A pulverising one-handed alley-oop dunk from Kevin Davis (20 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks) fed by Reece Maxwell was rare a highlight for the side.
Davis produced a similar highlight in the final quarter, this time executing an alley-oop reverse slam.
But such excitement feels empty in a losing side.
Varying players would step up for the Cougars at different points making the team difficult to defend.
Grand final MVP Rhet Della Malladeena regularly found short and mid-range opportunities with some clinical manouevering to finish with 18 points, two steals and three assists.
Najee Lane (24 points, 13 rebounds) and Marcus Goode (23 points, 15 rebounds) would have also been fitting MVP recipients, the two of them regularly scoring just when it looked as though the Wolves could be on a comeback.
Joondalup’s Reece Maxwell continued his strong end to the season providing spark in sluggish periods for the Wolves and his defensive pressure regularly troubling the Cougars’ handlers.
Trian Iladis could manage just 5-20 form the field, while Rob Huntington was not much better with 5-18.