THE South West Slammers and Rockingham Flames claimed overtime thrillers in the Men’s SBL on Friday night to score important wins with the Perth Redbacks and Willetton Tigers also scoring big victories.
It was a big night in the Men’s SBL to open the penultimate round of the 2017 season with the South West Slammers beating the Perry Lakes Hawks in overtime 105-102 to remain in the running for a top four position despite the absence of Tre Nichols and Chris Douglas.
The Rockingham Flames were the other overtime winners downing the Kalamunda Eastern Suns 94-87 to keep themselves in the mix for eighth position even without Dexter Kernich-Drew.
The Perth Redbacks consolidated fourth spot with a strong 94-70 win over the Mandurah Magic who lost veteran big man Taylor Mullenax to what appeared a serious knee injury on half-time.
The league-leading Willetton Tigers then maintained first place with an 85-75 victory over the in-form Stirling Senators.
The Redbacks were hosting their final home regular season game at Belmont Oasis taking on the bottom placed Magic on the back of impressive wins over the Tigers and Buccs last weekend that saw Perth return to fourth position after a tough stretch largely through missing personnel.
But that would count for little if they didn’t back it up on Friday and the Magic posed a threat having their best run of form of the season with wins over the Hawks and Buccs of late.
The Magic were battling hard in the first half to maintain a semblance of touch with the Redbacks. Much of that was due to the power of work that Mullenax was doing inside. But when he went down with his knee injury on half-time, it became tough for Mandurah to keep it close.
While it never really blew out, the Redbacks remained in control to end up winning by 24 points to maintain fourth position.
Lee Roberts ended up with 28 points and eight rebounds for the Redbacks with Shawn Redhage adding 23 points, 11 boards and six assists.
Geordie Murray contributed 10 points and four rebounds with Deng Mawein adding eight points, Ben Smith seven and Marshall Nelson six.
Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic was pleased to see his team continue the momentum from last week.
“We knew Mandurah had won two of its last three. After we played them at their place, they went and defeated Perry Lakes convincingly and went up to Geraldton and beat them up there, and then they scored 122 points against East Perth in a loss,” Lackovic said.
“So we prepared for this team as hard as we prepare for any team and we know that McNeill is a very good talent with all the physical tools, and understands the game pretty well. Mullenax has seemed like he has reversed the aging process over the last month or so as well.
“It was a good challenge for us to come in and continue to build on the momentum we created from last weekend. There’s no nights that you can take off in this league and there’s enough examples of that through the course of the season.
“We’ve been on the other end of that as well but the things that I like that I’m seeing right now is the hunger, everybody’s back and that was our first full week of practice having everybody there. The young guys have been terrific holding down the fort and now we’ve been able to get some run and minutes into Shawn after he’s missed a significant period which is always a benefit.”
Will McNeill again top-scored for the Magic with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Daniel Munday added eight points, Chad Simpson seven and Akau Deng seven to go with four rebounds.
Mullenax had nine points and five rebounds to half-time but unfortunately his knee injury right on half-time looked serious.
The veteran has had another outstanding season for the Magic and has got better the longer it has gone on, but now with him weighing up his future for 2018 already this might unfortunately make his decision for him.
Coach Aaron Trahair hopes it’s not as bad as it looked for Mullenax.
“The first thing that popped into my head was that I hope that’s not it for him. He is a great fella to have around the club, the boys love him and he is still playing at a high level most importantly. He is a good influence on those young fellas and they all look up to him. It was a sad sight but we hope it’s not as serious as it looked,” Trahair said.
“It is sad anytime someone looks like they suffer a serious injury, but all we know at this stage is that he heard a pop in his knee. I don’t want to say too much at the moment because I’d only be guessing but the only positive was that when I saw him briefly before he headed to hospital was that it was more to the side of the knee and it had swelled up already.
“I’m no doctor but hopefully that’s a good sign that it’s not the ACL. We’re really not sure yet but our fingers are crossed for him. As we find out the results of his scans or whatever he needs, we’ll deal with it and move on.”
With the Hawks needing to win to stay solid in eighth spot, the Slammers looking to remain in contention for a top four position and the added intrigue of South West coach Charles Nix returning to coach against Perry Lakes for the first time at Bendat Basketball Centre, the stage was set.
The Hawks have been in their best patch of form of the season in recent weeks but precious little separated the two teams all night even if the Slammers were missing Tre Nichols and Chris Douglas with Ty Harrelson’s return proving short-lived.
Michael Lay was the man to step up in the absence of Nichols and he appeared set to lead the Slammers to win down the stretch of the fourth quarter even if they were hard to recognise having to wear the SBL All Star uniforms following a wardrobe malfunction.
But when Lay missed two free-throws with 18 seconds left just half a minute after hitting the go-ahead three, it opened the door for Perry Lakes.
Matthew Adekponya took advantage to level scores with a layup before Lay and Adekponya both missed desperation efforts for their teams leading into overtime.
This time it was two made free-throws by Lay late in the piece that stretched the Slammers’ lead to three and that was enough for the crucial and exciting victory.
It was a big win for the Slammers minus Nichols and Douglas and improves them to 14-10 while the Hawks are 12-12 and needing to beat one of Lakeside or Geraldton in its last two games to secure a finals berth.
Lay had a huge night for the Slammers against his former team with 35 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals shooting 10-of-24 from the field, 4-of-8 from deep and 11-of-15 at the foul line.
But it’s hard not to be amazed by the game of Brian Voelkel who had 18 points, 19 rebounds and 20 assists shooting 5-of-8 from the floor, 3-of-4 from deep and 5-of-6 at the line.
Clive Weeden ended up with 17 points and nine rebounds too with Travis Vogel having the best night of his career with 16 points and playing 27 minutes. Teny Puot did well for 13 points while Brody England played 21 minutes for six points.
Despite the loss there was a lot to like from a Perry Lakes perspective with Adekponya leading the way with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Rob Waters added 19 points and seven rebounds, Ben Purser 17 points, 10 boards, five assists and three steals, Brian Carlwell 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Ryan Smith 10 points and three assists.
The night’s second overtime contest took place at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Flames ending up beating the Eastern Suns by seven points to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Rockingham can still make the playoffs by winning its final two games and with Perry Lakes not winning again but that had to start with a home victory against the Eastern Suns on Friday.
The Flames did jump out of the blocks quickly to lead by 10 points at quarter-time. But the Suns have made a habit of being able to fight back this season and they again did so with a big third quarter.
The Eastern Suns did look set for their seventh win of the season when leading by seven points with seven minutes remaining and still by five with three minutes left, and four with 2:15 on the clock.
A Courtney Belger free-throw still had the Suns leading 83-81 with 10 seconds let but Justin Beard managed to tie scores and send it into overtime.
In extra time, a field from Ryan Blanchett took Kalamunda to an 87-85 lead with 2:24 left but Donovan Jack tied scores for Rockingham, a triple from Beard put them in front and they ended up scoring the last nine points to claim the crucial seven-point victory to stay alive.
Beard not only hit the big shots when it mattered for Rockingham but ended up top-scoring with 21 points and six rebounds on the back of shooting 9-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point territory.
Jack added 20 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocked shots for the Flames while Vinny Zollo finished with 19 points and 12 boards, Ryan Godfrey 14 points and nine assists, and Beau Samuelson nine points.
Belger led the way for the Eastern Suns with 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Jamieson Lewis contributed 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Kalamunda, Kerrod Horn 17 points, six boards and four assists, and Rob Brandenberg 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Stirling has been in some outstanding form the past month to put itself in the mix for a top four finish heading into its clash at Warwick Stadium with the league-leading Tigers.
Willetton, meanwhile, was coming off its fourth loss of the season last Friday to the Redbacks so they couldn’t afford to drop another game or put their hold on the minor premiership in jeopardy.
That set the stage for an intriguing contest and it didn’t fail to deliver with the Tigers proving too strong down the stretch to win by 10 points in a playoff-esque contest.
Ray Turner came up big for the Tigers again with 31 points and eight rebounds on shooting 13-of-17 from the field.
Damien Scott added 20 points, five rebounds and four assists for Willetton with Jay Bowie contributing 19 points, Michael Collins eight and Andrew Black six along with six rebounds and six assists. Kyle Armour dished out eight assists.
Ash Litterick ended up top-scoring for the Senators with 18 points and seven rebounds with Rhys Vague adding 17 points, seven boards and five blocked shots, and Drew Naymick 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Cody Ellis finished with 10 points and Corban Wroe nine along with five assists.
Week 19 of the Men’s SBL continues Saturday night with the South West Slammers playing the Goldfields Giants, the Stirling Senators facing the Geraldton Buccaneers, the Lakeside Lightning battling the Perry Lakes Hawks, the East Perth Eagles taking on the Cockburn Cougars and the Willetton Tigers battling the Cockburn Cougars.
Then on Sunday afternoon, the Mandurah Magic plays the Goldfields Giants and the Cockburn Cougars battle the Geraldton Buccaneers.
FRIDAY NIGHT ROUND 19 MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Perth Redbacks 94 defeated Mandurah Magic 70
Perry Lakes Hawks 102 lost to South West Slammers 105
Rockingham Flames 94 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 87
Stirling Senators 75 lost to Willetton Tigers 85
SATURDAY NIGHT ROUND 19 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
South West Slammers v Goldfields Giants – Eaton Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Stirling Senators v Geraldton Buccaneers – Warwick Stadium 7.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Perry Lakes Hawks – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8pm
East Perth Eagles v Cockburn Cougars – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8pm
Willetton Tigers v Joondalup City Wolves – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8pm
SUNDAY ROUND 19 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Mandurah Magic v Goldfields Giants – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 12pm
Cockburn Cougars v Geraldton Buccaneers – Wally Hagan Stadium 12pm
Photo by Sebpix Photography