10 things to love this season

Headshot of Justin Fris
Justin FrisSouth Western Times
The youth in the Oilers men’s team continue to develop each week.
Camera IconThe youth in the Oilers men’s team continue to develop each week. Credit: Justin Fris

1.The improved fortunes of the Eaton Eagles women’s team

Heading into the 2020-21 campaign, it had been a lean start to life in the BBA women’s competition for the Eaton Eagles.

Thrashed 77-21 in their opening game by Aces Sky back in 2019 — which included a brutal 21-1 opening offensive run by the victors — light at the end of the tunnel appeared to be a long way off.

But inclusiveness and endeavour never left the squad from that game and finally in round six this year, when they broke through for a 54-52 win over the Dunsborough Oilers.

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Although the offensive exploits of Karinda Farrant (who is averaging 25 points per game) have been well documented, there is more to this Eagles team than any statistical column can show.

This team which is one who accepts players of all backgrounds and embraces them.

Although they might not have won for a few weeks now, three of their last four games have been decided by six points or less — a true testament at how far this group of dedicated women have come.

2.The coaching styles of Julieann Bissaker and Aaron Edwards

Both Bissaker and Edwards are superb coaches and people in their own right. Sure, their records in big games might speak from themselves, but in my view, it is the development side of things which sets them apart.

Even with ample SBL experience and a reigning Tornadoes Black championship team at her disposal, Bissaker always does what she can to give young players game time.

On game day, she offers a calm presence on the sideline and is able to offer a solid positive reinforcement of key fundamentals.

In addition, she is able to relay the importance of key defensive concepts and explain them in a way which the players can not only adopt, but apply to relevant in-game situations.

Although his Aces White team might be going through a difficult period of results at the moment, one look at Edwards on the sideline is all you need to be reassured he has his young men on the right track.

Not tempted to parachute in headline players to deliver wins, Edwards is committed to promoting juniors to senior level and ensuring they have a quality pathway while developing on and off the court.

Xavier Cotton (Tornadoes Black)
Camera IconXavier Cotton (Tornadoes Black)

3.Xavier Cotton’s brilliance 

The old adage of “Player X would have been the difference if they played” regularly gets trotted out throughout the sporting world, regardless of competition level or ability.

In the case of Tornadoes Black’s Xavier Cotton, he is one player who routinely is the difference between both teams on a court at BBA men’s A Grade level.

Cotton’s opening game dominance against the Bulls on October 16 is likely to be talked about for many years to come.

He sunk a staggering 10 shots from the three-point line, and finished with a game-high 37 points as his side waltzed to a 107-86 win.

He has scored more than 21 points in seven of his eight games so far this season, but there is so much more to Cotton’s game than dominating offensively.

Raw athletic ability at both ends of the glass is priceless at this level and this is what Cotton always provides.

The only sad thing is we have not seen more of him, because his best is a pleasure to watch.

Kelly Bastow has made a number of key plays beyond the three-point line for Tornadoes Black.
Camera IconKelly Bastow has made a number of key plays beyond the three-point line for Tornadoes Black.

4.Kelly Bastow’s ability to make clutch plays when a game needs to be won

Many people within the South West basketball community would be well aware of Kelly Bastow’s career, which ranged from a college stint with Texas A&M Kingsville in the US, along with several seasons as a South West Slammer.

No stranger to starring in big games, Bastow’s role at Tornadoes Black may be a little different now, however, her ability to slice a dagger through an opposing side’s momentum is something she has never lost.

Take round two against the Eaton Eagles for example.

In a tight ball game, the reputable long-range specialist had sunk only one three-point shot heading into the final three minutes of the final quarter.

With her side needing someone to grab ascendancy, the cool, calm and collected stalwart drained two shots from downtown which gave her side a 55-52 win.

A selfless player who always looks to involve her teammates, her impact in this competition is something younger players should aspire to.

Anita Reca’s hustle at both ends of the glass has been a real asset for the Bulls women’s team.
Camera IconAnita Reca’s hustle at both ends of the glass has been a real asset for the Bulls women’s team. Credit: Justin Fris

5.Anita Reca’s hustle at both ends of the court

Ever since Reca came to the South West, her heart and hustle has been infectious at both State league and club level.

During any game, it is not difficult to spot Reca, who burrows in after the ball at both ends of the glass.

While Catherine Waycott may make more shots than she misses in the paint and Skye Palmer’s speed may leave defenders gasping for breath, no one fights for every ball like Reca, who in many ways has become the glue of the team.

Sydney Lewis lets fly from downtown.
Camera IconSydney Lewis lets fly from downtown.

6.The standard of three-point shooting in both competitions

It can be risky to fall in love with the three-point shot, as if your offence becomes one-dimensional, it is easier for your rivals to work out what you are doing.

However, when you make it rain from beyond the three-point line? Well, it makes for an entertaining product.

Several teams across both competitions have quality shooters who deliver each week, which never fails to lift the standard of games.

7.Abbey Hall and Cian Parsons emerging as two of the competition’s best centres

Parson’s courage to return from a severe knee injury is inspiring. Even with considerable time on the sideline, she still has the same hustle and appetite for making a difference.

As for Hall, in many ways, the Aces Sky offence is based primarily through her from a neutral’s perspective.

With an imposing frame and ability to deliver under the offensive glass, Hall is having a fantastic season, averaging 18.54 points per game.

8.The endeavour of the Dunsborough Oilers men’s team

They might currently be on the bottom of the men’s A-grade table, but there is a lot to like about where the Oilers men’s team is heading.

With plenty of youth eager to learn, they have no shortage of creativity offensively. Results may not have gone their way at times, but they always fight through adversity to the final whistle.

By being prepared to try new things and extend offensive possessions, this Oilers team is learning each week.

Should this group stick together next season, expect to see them push for a spot in the top four.

9.Several close finishes

Over the past few years, blowout results have been an issue which has plagued both A-grade competitions.

Not so much in season 2020-21, with every team across each league genuinely competitive.

With a big contingent of SBL/NBL1 West players sprinkled throughout all clubs, the level of intensity has increased and resulted in matches going down to the wire.

10.Packed crowds at the South West Sports Centre

Seating at the South West Sports Centre on any given game night is always at a premium, with plenty of families and friends piling in to see their loved ones play the game they love.

The first thing you notice when you walk in is the sheer diversity of ages. Some members of society often believe children are addicted to video games and have limited interest in being active, but there is nothing of the sort in Bunbury.

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