THE final month of the 2017 Women’s SBL regular season gets underway this weekend starting off with three critical Friday night contests all featuring teams either inside the top eight or trying to earn a playoff berth.
The round gets underway with those three matches on Friday night featuring the Perth Redbacks playing the Joondalup City Wolves, the South West Slammers hosting the Willetton Tigers and the Stirling Senators facing the Lakeside Lightning.
Then on Saturday, the Perry Lakes Hawks and Kalamunda Eastern Suns take SBL basketball to Northam while that evening, the East Perth Eagles host the Rockingham Flames.
There are then two more terrific Sunday match ups with the Perth Redbacks playing the Stirling Senators and the Lakeside Lightning taking on the South West Slammers.
The Friday night action begins at Belmont Oasis with the Redbacks and Wolves doing battle in a contest featuring two teams currently occupying spots in the bottom part of the top eight.
The Redbacks come into the contest on their home floor having snapped their seven-game losing run last Saturday night beating the Cougars impressive by 15 points. That steadied them at a 7-10 record in seventh spot.
The Lady Wolfpack played their first game in two weeks on Sunday and saw their four-game winning run come to an end with a four-point defeat at the hands of the Lightning. The saw the Wolves remain in sixth spot with a 9-9 record.
The two teams met earlier this season at Joondalup with the Redbacks winning by seven points.
There’s plenty on the line with a win for the Redbacks keeping them a hope of finishing higher than seventh and avoiding Mandurah and Perry Lakes in the first round. Joondalup will remain vulnerable of not finishing fifth or sixth with a loss as well.
The Slammers are back at Eaton Recreation Centre looking to keep their season alive up against the defending champion Tigers.
South West kept its playoff hopes alive with a four-point win over the Flames at home last Saturday night. They have now won two of their past three matches to improve to a 5-12 record on the season to be just two wins behind the eighth placed Cougars.
Another win on Friday night and the Slammers are well and truly a chance to return to playoff action, but beating Willetton is going to be no easy task.
Following a horror 44-point loss in Mandurah, the Tigers have steadied with a 23-point win over Rockingham and 48-point thumping of Kalamunda to steady their position in fifth spot at 10-7.
The Tigers also beat the Slammers at Willetton by 29 points earlier in the season and they won’t be looking to slip up on Friday night to remain in fifth spot and still a chance of fourth.
The other Friday night contest pits the Senators up against the Lightning at Warwick Stadium.
The two teams currently occupy third and fourth in the Women’s SBL standings and have the same 12-5 records on the season.
Stirling did win the earlier contest this season in style by 25 points at Lakeside so it would take quite the turnaround for the Lightning to claim the series split.
But a win and the Lightning would move a game ahead and make them a good chance of finishing third. But a win for the Senators and they are right in the box seat to take third with each team having four matches remaining.
Lakeside coach Craig Mansfield is looking forward to trying to make up for a disappointing showing against the Senators on their home floor last time around.
“It’s a big game in the sense that we are tied for records so we could get half a game ahead, but they came here against us last time and belted us. We need to be better to test ourselves against them,” Mansfield said.
“Kisha Lee presents some match-up difficulties but the girls that potentially cover her are better defensively now. We can’t get head-to-head back on them short of something crazy which isn’t a scenario I would consider, but we could get an important win.
“There’s absolutely no games you can lock so every game from now is important but there might not be a huge difference between finishing third and fourth this year.
“As the ladder stands at the moment, sixth would be the Wolves and fifth Willetton so short of finishing top two which is off the table, there’s going some really good playoff series with those teams around that mark. Home court is nice and all of that, but whoever you play is going to be a challenge.”
Then on Saturday afternoon, the Hawks and Eastern Suns take the game to the regions by playing one another at Northam Recreation Centre.
The Lady Hawks enter the clash now clear on top of the Women’s SBL standings with a 17-1 record following last Saturday night’s strong win over the Magic in Mandurah.
All the Hawks need to do now is keep winning and the minor premiership is theirs.
But if the Suns still harbour any playoff hopes, they likely will need to win all their remaining four matches starting this Saturday in Northam with the daunting task up against Perry Lakes.
Saturday night’s sole Women’s SBL fixture will take place at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre with the Eagles hosting the Flames.
East Perth enters the game on a six-game losing streak with its last win coming over Stirling back on May 27. Rockingham has now lost 10 straight with the last win coming over the Eagles by 12 points back on May 12.
The Eagles can keep their hopes alive of avoiding bottom spot with a win on Saturday night while the wooden spoon will be theirs if the Flames prevail.
There are two more critical matches in the Women’s SBL on Sunday starting with the Redbacks hosting the Senators at Belmont Oasis.
Perth will be coming off playing Joondalup on Friday night with Stirling having played Lakeside on Friday as well. This clash on Sunday could be crucial to the Redbacks’ playoff hopes altogether and important for the Senators to remain in the top four.
The final game of the weekend is then between the Lightning and Slammers at Lakeside Recreation Centre. Both will have already played on Friday night and will need to win for different reasons once they meet on Sunday afternoon.
WEEK 17 WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Perth Redbacks v Joondalup City Wolves – Belmont Oasis 6.30pm
South West Slammers v Willetton Tigers – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Stirling Senators v Lakeside Lightning – Warwick Stadium 6.30pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Northam Recreation Centre 2pm
East Perth Eagles v Rockingham Flames – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 6pm
Perth Redbacks v Stirling Senators – Belmont Oasis 12pm
Lakeside Lightning v South West Slammers – Lakeside Recreation Centre 3pm
Photo by Vikki Hile