SBL grand final: Joondalup Wolves look to worsen Perth Redbacks drought

Wolves coach Ben Ettridge.
Picture: Michael Farnell,
Wolves coach Ben Ettridge. Picture: Michael Farnell,

THE Joondalup Wolves have been to the State Basketball League grand final more times than any other team this decade.

Two wins and two losses from four appearances in the ’10s leaves them well versed in what a decider can throw at a side.

The Perth Redbacks haven’t been to the big dance in 18 years and haven’t won a title since 1997.

It makes for a classic sporting scenario of the dominant versus the success starved when the sides meet in the championship game at the Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night.

While clashes of this type are prone to a surprise or two, Wolves coach Ben Ettridge was not expecting it to produce anything Joondalup hadn’t already faced in their finals games against Cockburn and Geraldton.

Both teams, like Perth, had star players capable of big numbers, but the Wolves’ grinding gamestyle proved too tough for them to overcome.

“Cockburn had a couple of big-time scorers and then the Buccs had three guys we had to key in on,” he said.

“So for us it’s sticking to what we want to do and making them (Perth) take as tougher shots as possible.

“They’ve got multiple avenues to the basket, but we’ve hung our hat on being the best defensive team in the league over the past three or four years.”

No bigger name graces the Belmont-based Redbacks’ line-up than four-time Perth Wildcats championship player Shawn Redhage.

The retired 393-game NBL player brings a wealth of experience as one of the country’s most decorated finals campaigners.

But despite the presence of the man formerly dubbed “The Scoring Machine”, Ettridge said they did not have a specific Redhage plan.

“If you make one guy the focus, it takes away from how we do things,” he said.

“It will be ‘make his life as difficult as possible’ but then not let the secondary guys get off the chain.”

Perth proved they could get it done without a significant contribution from Redhage, who scored a modest 14 points in game two of the Redbacks’ semi final series win over Willetton on Friday.

Of greater benefit to the Wolves than a Redhage plan is the team’s cunning player management approach.

Ettridge boasted his starting five had played fewer minutes than most other sides.

“We averaged around 29 minutes a game (for our starters) whereas most of the opposition are up around 37 or 36,” he explained.

“So over the course of the season, that adds up to about four or five less games they’ve played when they get to the finals.

“We’re ready to go and we’re pumped up.”

While the Wolves’ grand final loss to Cockburn last year offered motivation, there would not be a lot they could take out of that clash to apply to this year’s game plan.

Ettridge said Joondalup had adopted a faster game style this season, making it difficult to compare the two grand finals.

But the experience and the team’s other three grand final appearances from 2011 to 2016 would give them an edge.

“We know the process… we know how to go about our business and get it right on the night,” he said.

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