Ray Turner dominated with 39 points and 10 rebounds, and hit several clutch baskets down-the-stretch, as the South All-Stars hung on for a thrilling 129-126 victory over the North All-Stars in a highly competitive and entertaining SBL All-Star game at Bendat Basketball Centre this afternoon.
Turner, who had the pleasure of suiting up alongside three of his Willetton Tigers teammates in Damien Scott, Jay Bowie, and Kyle Armour, started the game on the bench having not been selected as a starter, but once he checked into the game four minutes in, he went to work immediately, running along the baseline and throwing down a powerful two-handed dunk with his first possession to set the tone for his big outing.
It was actually the first SBL All-Star game for Turner, after he was ruled out of the 2015 event due to an eye injury he suffered just 24 hours before All-Star day, so it was particularly special for him to be involved and to play so well.
“It felt good, being here two years ago I wasn’t able to play, so being able to play today was great, and I came out and did what I do best” said Turner right after being awarded the All-Star MVP award.
“I just played my game and let it come, and sometimes it’ll come, and sometimes it’s just about getting your mindset ready, but today I came to play mentally and physically and that was the outcome” he said.
Turner was in attack-mode all afternoon, showing off his variety of moves by hitting a combination of fade-away jumpers, while also dominating around the basket, resulting in the South winning the “Points in Paint” category 76-58, and his Tigers captain and All-Star teammate Kyle Armour enjoyed getting to take the floor with him once again.
“Ray was outstanding today” Armour said.
“He thrives in that competitive environment. He’s a dominant force and sets a high standard, and it’s players like him that continue to drive the league” he said.
Outside of Turner, the South got 16 points and seven assists from Tre Nichols of the Southwest Slammers, while fellow Tigers Jay Bowie and Damien Scott added 15 and 13 points respectively. Gavin Field of the Cockburn Cougars contributed 12 points, while Goldfields Giants import Jacob Holmen added 11.
The North were brilliantly led by Perth Redbacks duo Shawn Redhage and Ben Smith. Redhage showed why he’s a multiple NBL championship winner, posting a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Smith had 26 points, including an impressive seven triples from 12 attempts. Rhys Vague and Cody Ellis of the Stirling Senators also played well for North, with Vague scoring 18 and Ellis adding 15.
The North All-Stars actually got off to the better start, jumping out to a 17-6 lead midway through the first quarter after Smith went on an early shooting tear from three-point land, knocking down several long-range bombs to draw some ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd, but as Turner got going, the South rallied back and by quarter-time there was only one point in it, North leading 28-27.
The South took control of the game in the second and third quarters, as they continually found ways to score in the paint, and by the midway point of the third they’d built a 15-point lead. The chance of a blow-out was looking likely, but Vague got going and nailed three consecutive triples for North shortly before three-quarter time to close the gap once again.
The fourth quarter was quite the spectacle, as unlike in NBA All-Star games, both teams actually played defense and were hungry to win, and the sides traded baskets throughout the quarter with the lead see-sawing back and forth. South held a 110-107 lead in the closing moments of the final period, but a huge three-pointer from Ben Smith tied the game up with 11 seconds left.
South called timeout and had a chance to wind down the clock and shoot a potential game-winner at the buzzer, but Jacob Holmen drove baseline and accidentally bounced the ball out of bounds, handing that chance to North, now with just 4.5 seconds left. North called a timeout themselves to advance the ball, and got it to Cody Ellis on the wing for a three-pointer, but luckily for the South, his buzzer-beater rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
Both teams were refused to lie down during overtime. Redhage was hitting clutch shots for North to help them make a push, but Turner often had the answers down the other end, making some big shots while drawing fouls, and getting to the line for three-point plays.
Turner also had a monster rejection from behind on Redhage that led to points in transition for Jay Bowie, and that put South in the drivers seat, leading 121-116 with 1:41 left. However, two three-pointers from Cody Ellis inside the final 90 seconds kept the game in the balance until the very last shot.
With the score at 129-126 to the South, the North had one last chance to force a double-overtime, but Ben Purser’s three-pointer at the buzzer was off, handing the victory to the South, and making it three-straight years the South team have won the All-Star game.
Kyle Armour also spoke afterwards about what it meant to him to be part of the game, and to have some of his Tigers teammates there with him.
“It was fun to be out there playing with such talented guys in the league, and coming together for a great cause is humbling,” he said
“The crowd was awesome, which added to the atmosphere of the game, and it was cool to be out there with my Willo teammates. It felt very natural as they played a massive part in me having the opportunity to play today” Armour said.
Overall, it wasn’t just the South team to win, it was the SBL in general, for putting on what was an excellent and engaging game of Basketball featuring so many of WA’s most talented players, and one which also raised money and awareness for Lifeline WA.