Blues shot down by Falcons in high-octane shootout
In what proved to be a high-octane shootout, the Frankston RSL Blues were taken down by the Waverley Falcons in their opening NBL1 clash.
The high-scoring contest provided plenty of excitement for the near full-house at Frankston Stadium, as the new-look Blues who were shot down by the red-hot Falcons trio of Chrs Arkell, Dylan Travis and Deondre McWhorter who all compiled 20-point games. In particular, it was the sweet-shooting of Arkell who exploded for 25 points on 5-7 three-point shooting who set the Falcons on course for their 107-99 win in a pivotal third quarter.
“That first five minutes, having a lead of 5 going into the third, we allowed the known guys to get going which breathed confidence in their offence,” explained returning head coach Andrew Harms.
“For us, it was chasing our tails from there. I thought our first half was really solid, and I think we played the kind of tempo we want to play, but it as just that third quarter.”
The Blues received a dominant first up effort from NBL centre Majok Majok who logged an impressive 23 points (10-16 FG) and 15 rebounds, including four monster slam dunks, were able to spread the scoring with six players registering double figures thanks to his presence.
“He came in based on the Dan Trist situation, and he has been A-grade since the minute he walked in. His minutes tonight were fantastic for us and he provides us with a presence. Once we get the second import and we get Dan [Trist] in, it will only further open up his opportunities and probably not allow him to play 38 minutes up and down, only further adding to his productivity.”
Highly touted import Damon Bozeman had posted just 4 points up to three-quarter time, however he displayed his importance through unleashing a final quarter 12 point outburst that almost powered the Blues to an opening round win.
“I think that is one of Damon’s [Bozeman] strengths is his ability to continue putting pressure on the defense,” Harms added.
“We have put a lot of work into our fitness side of our guys, and we feel confident that we can run out games with that style. With our guards it is probably tough to grade them until they get some other bigs around them, and get into the flow of some of our offense sets that we haven’t been running. But yeah, I was impressed with his fourth quarter, but for us it is out consistency across four quarters that we are looking for from everybody.”
In a blistering start to the game, Majok opened the Blues scoring with a thunderous slam dunk much to the delight of the home crowd. And while the Blues looked threatening behind the stellar guard play of Lachlan Barker, it was Waverley’s Dylan Travis who would pile on the points early. The dynamic guard torched the Blues for 12 first period points as the Falcons threatened to open up a big early lead. Yet it was Majok who helped claw the margin back, with the NBL big man going close to compiling a first quarter double-double, adding 6 points and a staggering 9 rebounds – 6 of them offensive – to provide a multitude of second chance scoring opportunities. A last second play saw Bennie Lewis feed Dean Neville down low to beat the buzzer and put the Falcons up by 3 to close out the first.
Both teams traded baskets in the second, two Majok dunks were bookended by three-pointers to Alistair Macdonald to keep the scoreboard working hard. And while Waverley was able to keep their score ticking over, the Blues took the lead following another dunk by Majok and a triple to Tom Garrett. Barker and Igor Hadziomerovic kept the Blues in front, and when the latter scored on the buzzer, the Blues had managed to open up a 4 point lead at half-time.
Waverley opened the second half on a 9-2 run sparked by McWhorter and Arkell. The Falcons racked up a whopping 36 points for the period as their shooters got hot, pulling away to a 9 point lead in the final change.
Behind an outburst from Bozeman, the Blues went on a 8-0 run to close the margin to just 1 within less than 3 minutes. Yet another Bozeman bucket was sandwiched between back-to-back triples to Matt Hancock from either corner to put the visitors back up by 5. Bozeman’s scoring spree continued, and a big alley-oop to Majok had the crowd on the feet. But Waverley responded every time through Arkell and then Travis. Hadziomerovic would score 10 of the Blues last 15 points, but the Falcon’s shooters were running hot and would respond to every challenge to run out 8 point victors.
While Majok was best for the Blues, Hadziomerovic’s late flurry saw him finish with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Bozeman finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, Macdonald has 16 points and 3 rebounds and 3 assists, while Barker added 12 and Garrett 11 off the bench.
While Arkell added 25 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for Waverley, he received great support from Travis who posted a game-high 27 points with 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals, and McWhorter’s 23 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks [Box Score].
The Frankston RSL Blues who are yet to welcome the arrival of second import Najeal Young, will head to the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic centre on Sunday, 7 April to take on the Melbourne Tigers in round 2 in searching of their first win of the season.