Wolves' depth the key to dominant 2015 championship win

HAVING the deepest team in the men's SBL always had the Merriwa Tavern & Bistro Joondalup City Wolves in prime position for the 2015 championship and that's exactly how it panned out with a commanding 105-75 Grand Final win over the South West Slammers.

Ben Ettridge returned to pick up as coach of the Wolfpack in 2015 having previously led them to their first men's SBL title in 18 years back in 2011, and picking up the good work by Craig Friday he was able to put together a squad that dominated the competition this year.

The result was the Wolves finishing the regular season three games clear on top of the standings and then going on to beat the Perry Lakes Hawks in three games, the Rockingham Flames in two and then dominating the Grand Final on Saturday night.

The pressure the Wolfpack applied on the Slammers from the outset put them under enormous pressure and took them out of their game, and then with Trian Iliadis on fire for the first three quarters with 28 points to earn the Grand Final MVP, the Wolves were an unstoppable force.

However, it's the depth that's been the key to their success all season and again in the Grand Final there were a host of players who came up big on top of Iliadis.

Rob Huntington was tremendous inside and out with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals while Joel Questel added nine points, four assists and two steals on top of a superb defensive performance by Tre Nichols.

With captain Seb Salinas, import big man Kevin Davis, veteran Damian Matacz and role players Ben Ironmonger, Sean Easther, Doug Gates and Louis Timms contributing strongly as well, the Wolves had far too much for the gallant Slammers who had done a tremendous job to be in the Grand Final.

Ettridge couldn’t have been more proud of the work his team has put in right throughout the season, and to deliver on Grand Final night.

"I'm very fortunate to have such a great group and a great club behind me. I'm just stoked at the moment for the boys," Ettridge said on SBL Slam on 98five Sonshine FM.

"I would say he (Iliadis) was the MVP of the finals series. He has been absolutely outstanding and Kevin Davis was great, and Seb Salinas was able to stay out of foul trouble as well so that was handy for us. I love the boys to us.

"We had never quite hit our straps through the whole playoffs but to get 12 guys all through the game, and early on we had to go to some different line-ups to get some fresh legs in there, but it was an outstanding team effort and I couldn’t be prouder."

Salinas will now go down as a championship captain of the Wolves having now played in two championship-winning teams with the Wolfpack, but his 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds was a big step up from his fouling out, scoreless Grand Final showing in 2011.

However, he was just proud of the work done by his teammates at both ends of the floor.

"It's a surreal feeling. To come away with a 30-point win wasn’t expected but the boys did an unreal job on the back of Trin and Kev, and I love the guys," Salinas said.

"The thing about us all year has been that we have known who to target on the opposition and we know if we can limit him then we knew we'd have an awesome chance of winning.

"Tre's a great shooter and great player, and so is Ty and Voelkel, but we made their other guys do the work and it proved to work for us."

Iliadis was the standout player on the court in the Grand Final to continue to make a strong case for an NBL club to give him an opportunity.

While his individual performance was outstanding, he wanted to pay tribute to his teammates and coaching staff led by Ettridge but with special mention of Friday for the work he has done the last two years.

"All year we have prided ourselves on defence and we knew we could score, but to be able to hold a team like that to under 80 points is something that is a real accomplishment," Iliadis said.

"All of the guys that we brought in have stepped up. Damo was out of basketball for a year and has come in and hasn’t missed a step, Joel would have to guard the best guard on the other team every night, and Louis with his defence and rebounds was massive. Obviously the young guys who set the games up like Ben Ironmonger and Jordan Wellsteed as well. Our bench has been great all year and that's why we are here.

"For Craig to take the team that Etto built and won a championship with, and then for Craig to step in take us to a grand final as well and keep us all together is something Etto will thank him for because it made his job that much easier. We've had 'Trigger' as an assistant coach since I've been at the club and he's been awesome. I can't speak higher of our coaching staff."

Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Serene-Elise Photography


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