IT is heading towards the business end of the Men’s SBL season in Week 15 action as teams fight over bottom spots in the top eight while the Geraldton Buccaneers looks to stay clear on top hosting the Joondalup City Wolves.
There are three games in the Men’s SBL on Friday night to open the round with the Perry Lakes Hawks taking on the Cockburn Cougars, the Rockingham Flames facing the Stirling Senators and the East Perth Eagles playing the South West Slammers.
Saturday night’s action then begins with a tantalising match up as the league-leading Geraldton Buccaneers host the Joondalup City Wolves.
The Goldfields Giants and Lakeside Lightning also meet in a crucial contest while the South West Slammers host the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, the Mandurah Magic take on the Perth Redbacks and the Willetton Tigers face the Rockingham Flames.
The round concludes on Sunday with the Cockburn Cougars playing the East Perth Eagles.
WEEK 14 SATURDAY NIGHT MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Friday night begins with a tantalising match up between the Hawks and Cougars at Bendat Basketball Centre.
When the teams met earlier in the season at Wally Hagan Stadium it was the night the Cougars raised their championship banner from last season with coach Matt Parsons on hand and now coaching Perry Lakes.
Parsons led his Hawks team to a stunning come from behind victory that night and there’s plenty at stake this time around.
The Hawks enter the game coming off a tremendous win over the Wolves last Friday night but they have still not won consecutive games in all of 2017 hence sitting in 10th position at 7-10.
This is the type of game they need to win if they want to break into the top eight.
But the Cougars are building form nicely having won four of their last five games to be in sixth spot at 10-8. Either way, it’s shaping up as another tremendous battle.
Hawks guard Rob Cassir is looking forward to it as he always does against Gavin Field and his Cougars.
“Matt will definitely be motivated to win this one and Trav Hayto will definitely be up for it as well,” Cassir said.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing against Cockburn though, it’s always a tough game and Gav Field is a hell of a player. They are always competitive and they are hitting some good form, but if we go out and play our style hopefully we can get it done and finally win consecutive games this season.”
The Flames and Senators currently occupy seventh and eighth position heading into another crucial contest at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Friday night.
The form of the two teams appear heading in the opposite direction with Rockingham having won seven of its past nine games and Stirling losing its past four.
But Friday’s game could prove decisive in which team ends up making the playoffs and which doesn’t.
The other Friday game has plenty on the line also as the Eagles host the Slammers at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
East Perth comes into the game having lost a nail-biter to the Wolves and having lost five of its past six to slip out of the top eight to currently sit 11th at 7-11.
That leaves the Eagles needing to string wins together to stay in the playoff hunt but knocking off the Slammers won’t be easy.
Despite a tight loss in Geraldton last weekend, they have still won 10 of their last 13 games to be in fifth position. However, a loss on Friday will have them back in the group of teams battling for a bottom half spot in the top eight.
Saturday night couldn’t get underway in any more exciting fashion with the Buccaneers hosting the Wolfpack at Active West Stadium.
It could very well be a semi-final or grand final preview with the Buccs coming into the game in top spot having won eight on the trot to hold a 15-2 record.
The Wolves, meanwhile, remain third at 13-5 despite having only won two and lost two the previous fortnight.
It’s a game where either side has a real chance to make a statement in their first meeting of 2017.
The Giants and Lightning are two teams currently outside the top eight but trying to stay in touch for a playoff berth as they clash at Neils Hansen Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
The Giants come into the game after a loss in Kambalda to the Eastern Suns last week to leave them with a 5-12 record and making this a virtual must-win contest in the first of two clashes with the Lightning over the past six weeks.
The Lightning hold an 8-10 record in ninth position and this would give them a good boost in the race for the playoffs and ahead of a home clash with the Giants too in the run home.
Giants captain Jacob Holmen is in his third season in Kalgoorlie and continues to deliver some outstanding numbers, and leadership for his club. But he isn’t playing to not end up in the playoffs and knows how important Saturday night’s game is.
“Winning six or seven of our last nine is doable, but every time I step onto the floor I want to win. I tell these guys let’s try to go 9-0 but the loss to Kalamunda was unfortunate. They are a good team, though, with two good imports and this year the SBL is so close that anybody can get anybody on any given night,” Holmen said.
“This is our first time seeing Lakeside and it’s so late in the season. They are a good ball club and Padgett is a rebounding monster, and Atkinson runs the team getting assists. They are going to be a tough team, but if we practice hard this week and come out to play hard in front of these fans I’m confident we can get the job done.”
The Slammers return home on Saturday night to host the Eastern Suns at Eaton Recreation Centre.
South West will have already played on the road to East Perth on Friday while Kalamunda can keep its playoff hopes alive with a win.
Coming off an impressive win over the Giants in Kambalda, another on Saturday would improve on their 5-15 record and keep them an outside chance.
The Magic are back at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre on Saturday night searching for a third win of 2017 up against the Redbacks.
Ricky Kreklow and Shawn Redhage will both be missing on either side, but it’s a game the Redbacks can’t afford to drop to continue to lock in their top four position.
The last game on Saturday night looks set to be another beauty with Willetton playing Rockingham at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Tigers bounce back from a loss to East Perth two weeks ago to beat the Magic in Mandurah on Sunday to remain solid in second position at 15-3.
The Flames, meanwhile, have won seven of the last nine entering this weekend to be 9-10 before playing Stirling on Friday and then Willetton on Saturday.
Tigers coach Steve Black is fully aware of how dangerous the Flames are, but he wants his team to send a message at the same time.
“Since they signed Kernich-Drew they have really stepped it up and he might have been that missing element that has really brought all their other talents and elements into the game,” Black said.
“We will really just focus on them this week and it’s important for us to make a bit of a statement this weekend as well. We are back at home, we have an up and coming team an opponent and it’s important that we show that we can put our foot down and show that teams won’t come in and beat us on our home court.”
Sunday afternoon sees the Cougars take on the Eagles at Wally Hagan Stadium. Both teams will have already played earlier in the weekend and are fighting over spots in the bottom part of the eight leaving plenty at stake to conclude the round.
WEEK 15 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Perry Lakes Hawks v Cockburn Cougars – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.30pm
Rockingham Flames v Stirling Senators – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
East Perth Eagles v South West Slammers – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Joondalup City Wolves – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Lakeside Lightning – Neils Hansen Basketball Stadium 8pm
South West Slammers v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Eaton Recreation Centre 8pm
Mandurah Magic v Perth Redbacks – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8pm
Willetton Tigers v Rockingham Flames – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8pm
Cockburn Cougars v East Perth Eagles – Wally Hagan Stadium 2pm
Photo by Vikki Hile