THE last remaining playoff position goes on the line in Geraldton and Kalgoorlie on Saturday night with the Rockingham Flames needing to beat the Giants and hoping the Perry Lakes Hawks lose to the Buccaneers to snatch eighth spot.
It’s the final round of the 2017 SBL regular season and while the top seven teams are secure at least in terms of making the playoffs, the Hawks and Flames hit the road with eighth position on the line and the reward being a quarter-final battle with the Willetton Tigers.
The round begins on Friday night with the Lakeside Lightning playing the Willetton Tigers and the Cockburn Cougars taking on the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
Then on Saturday night there’s the two regional contests with the Geraldton Buccaneers playing the Perry Lakes Hawks and the Goldfields Giants hosting the Rockingham Flames.
The other three Saturday night fixtures sees the Joondalup City Wolves playing the South West Slammers, the Mandurah Magic taking on the Stirling Senators and the East Perth Eagles battling the Perth Redbacks.
BUCCS CONFIDENT LOSING FORM NOT A CONCERN BEFORE PLAYOFFS
FIELD LIKES THE WAY COUGARS CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENCE SHAPING UP
COACH TRAHAIR EXCITED ABOUT FUTURE WITH REBUILDING MAGIC
WEEK 19 SUNDAY MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Week 20 begins on Friday night with the Lightning taking on the Tigers at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Lakeside might not be able to make the playoffs despite potentially ending up on 12 wins alongside Perry Lakes and Rockingham, but the Lightning can still finish the season with some good momentum against the league-leading Tigers.
The Lightning are in good form with a three-game winning streak having beaten the Suns, Giants and Hawks. While that won’t quite be enough for a playoff berth, it does see them finishing the season with positivity.
Willetton can’t finish anywhere but first either no matter the result on Friday but the Tigers won’t be looking to take it easy as their final preparation for next week’s quarter finals against either Perry Lakes or Rockingham.
The second game on Friday night pits the defending champion Cougars up against the Eastern Suns at Wally Hagan Stadium.
Cockburn currently sits sixth with a 15-10 record but a win on Friday night for them and Saturday night losses for either the Redbacks and/or Slammers would see them move up either one or two positions.
That means there are plenty of reasons for the Cougars to win on Friday to put the pressure on those two teams on Saturday.
But the Suns remain a dangerous and improved team in 2017 and they will be hungry to finish the season on a high and to claim the seventh win of the campaign to make it better in the win-loss column than 2016 even though already their growth has been plain to see.
Saturday night begins at Active West Stadium with the Buccaneers hosting the Hawks.
The Buccs are still a chance to finish second if they win and the Wolves lose to the Slammers so there’s plenty on the line for the home team on top of wanting to go into the playoffs in winning form having lost five of their past six games.
But for Perry Lakes, they simply know that if they win they are in the playoffs and they can get ready for the Tigers next week in the quarter finals. A loss and the Hawks need to prey that the Giants beat the Flames in Kalgoorlie or else their season is done.
Buccaneers coach Ray Evans knows it’s going to be another big game and perfect finals preparation.
“They have to win otherwise they drop out and while we can’t move too far, we need to have winning momentum going into the finals,” Evans said.
“It’s probably good preparation for us as well rather than coming up against a team who is out of contention but playing a team that is still in contention. That should make sure we focus a little bit better.”
Then at Neils Hansen Basketball Stadium, the Giants host the Flames and while Goldfields can’t make the playoffs, they will be keen to finish off the season on a winning note at the expense of Rockingham.
The Flames need to win to be any hope of making the playoffs. The equation is simple. If they win and the Hawks lose in Geraldton, they finish eighth. If Perry Lakes wins, then no matter what Rockingham does the Hawks end up eighth.
The Giants did return to the winner’s list last Sunday beating the Magic and finishing the season with two straight wins for rookie coach Lou Causer would be a good way to finish a 2017 that has undoubtedly posed its challenges.
There is also plenty on the line in the last ever regular season game at Joondalup Basketball Stadium with the Wolves hosting the Slammers.
It won’t be the last game at the venue because of the upcoming playoffs to be held there, but it will be last regular season fixture ever and it shapes as a beauty between two teams who look capable of being championship threats.
The Wolves can lock away second position with their 20th win of the season but a loss and they leave the door open for the Buccs to snatch second spot off them.
The Slammers, meanwhile, will finish fourth with a victory and giving them home court advantage would significantly boost their hopes of going a long way come playoff time on the back of Tre Nichols, Brian Voelkel, Michael Lay and Clive Weeden.
The Magic finish their season at home to the Senators at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre on Saturday night.
Mandurah will finish on the bottom no matter the result and will be without Taylor Mullenax, but the Magic have been much better than the usual bottom side and they would be hoping for a strong finish to the season.
The Senators are unlikely to be able to finish any higher than seventh even with a win on Saturday night but that would give them some momentum to take into a quarter-final clash with either the Wolves or Buccs.
Magic coach Aaron Trahair will ensure his team gives their all to try and finish 2017 on a high note.
“Irrespective of who we have available we will just go out there and compete. I think that the way we play and the way we get after it means that you have to beat us,” Trahair said.
“Irrespective of where we are, every time that we’ve played the teams have to earn the win against us and that’s a pat on the back for all the boys. We want this last game to be the same and hopefully we can get even get a win to finish off with.”
The Eagles then also look to finish their season on a high note hosting the Redbacks at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
East Perth might have been out of the playoff hunt for several weeks following a string of tight losses, but upsetting the Redbacks and hurting their top four chances wouldn’t be the worst way they could envision finishing the season.
For the Redbacks, they can move a step closer to finishing in fourth place with a win on the back of strong victories the last fortnight against the Tigers, Buccs and Magic.
For Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic, he knows how important a top four finish is but not just for the advantage it could provide, but as a reward for all the hard work put in by so many people to make it possible.
“That home court is really important and I would have liked us to be able to finish higher than fourth, but there were a couple of games we dropped that I feel we shouldn’t have for whatever reason,” Lackovic said.
“Finishing fourth is still important for us as a club because we don’t own our own stadium and don’t have a big budget and can’t do some of the other things other clubs can do. So to get an extra game at home is great for us and for the team. We are just really excited about what’s ahead.
“This is a special group of guys who are team-first players and we have a great blend of youth and experience. All we want to do right now is prepare as well as we can to play East Perth and whoever we play after that we’ll prepare as best as we can for whoever we face next.”
WEEK 20 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Lakeside Lightning v Willetton Tigers – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Cockburn Cougars v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Wally Hagan Stadium 8.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Perry Lakes Hawks – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Rockingham Flames – Neils Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Joondalup City Wolves v South West Slammers – Joondalup Basketball Stadium 8pm
Mandurah Magic v Stirling Senators – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8pm
East Perth Eagles v Perth Redbacks – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8pm
Photo by Vikki Hile Photography