THE Lakeside Lightning and Kalamunda Eastern Suns finished their Men’s SBL seasons on a high defeating the playoff-bound Willetton Tigers and Cockburn Cougars respectively on Friday night.
There were two matches on Friday night to begin the final round of the 2017 season with the Lakeside Lightning finishing its campaign with a fourth straight victory, defeating the minor premier Willetton Tigers 93-81 at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Friday’s other fixture saw the Kalamunda Eastern Suns highlight its improvement in 2017 winning its seventh game downing the defending champion Cockburn Cougars 107-101 at Wally Hagan Stadium.
WEEK 20 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
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
LACKOVIC FULL OF ADMIRATION FOR WAGNER AHEAD OF 300TH GAME
The Lightning came into their clash with the Tigers out of the playoff hunt but still on a three-game winning streak and looking to finish the season off on the best possible note.
That didn’t look likely to happen early when Damien Scott was on fire early and Willetton raced out to lead by as much as 14 points and still by 12 at quarter-time.
But the Lightning steadied and with James Padgett doing a power of work inside opposed to Ray Turner, Devon Atkinson putting on some highlight moments with his ankle-breaking dribble moves and youngsters Rowan Mackenzie and Corey Shervill coming up big.
That saw the home team put in perhaps the best performance of any club this season against the minor premier Tigers. They went on a 14-0 scoring run at one stage, led by 16 points and ended up winning by 12.
The Lightning will finish the season with the four successive wins and a 12-14 record while the Tigers still end up in first place at 20-6.
There were a host of standout performers for the Lightning but none better than big man Padgett who ended his season with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Shervill delivered another 19 points and eight rebounds as he now heads to college while Mackenzie had the best game of his young career with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Atkinson ended the night with 17 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals while Matt Vinci chimed in with 10 points and veteran Tom Parkinson five to go with three rebounds.
Lightning coach Sam Oatman was in his last game in charge having been informed during the week he wouldn’t be reappointed. He did well to shake off that disappointment and help keep his team’s momentum going to finish the season.
“It’s just a special moment for our team and for me personally. I’m just really proud of our guys for the way they finished the season and for their effort, heart and commitment to each other. It’s just a great way to go out,” Oatman said.
“I’m happy that this team has finally got to this point and that’s the goal to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season. I’m proud of them for not quitting and for doing that, but it’s disappointing to essentially miss out on the playoffs by half a game or whatever it’s going to be.
“Really I’m just proud of the way the guys have continued to fight throughout the season. It shows that they are a special group of people and they have to continue to build on this momentum going into next season with whoever is in charge.”
Scott started hot for the Tigers ended up top-scoring with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists and three assists shooting 9-of-15 from the field and 4-of-10 from deep. The only shots he missed were from beyond the arc.
Jay Bowie added 18 points, five rebounds and five assists for Willetton with Turner contributing 17 points and eight boards.
Tigers coach Stephen Black never took the game for granted despite being locked into first place and will look for his team to learn from it.
“I just think that at all times you want to make sure you are doing all the things that make you successful. We certainly went into this game trying to win it but credit to them for playing well and beating us,” Black said.
“Any team in this league if they play hard, play well and do the things to make them successful are going to get you. We just thought at quarter-time we could do our thing and you can’t ever afford to do that.
“You don’t write it completely off. I was really pleased that we brought the attitude we needed to in the first quarter and I thought our defence and ball movement was exactly what we wanted. Then it was disappointing that we let it go but I think we just try and take out the positives that I was really pleased with and identify how we avoid any of the other stuff happening again.”
The Eastern Suns headed to Wally Hagan Stadium looking to finish their improved season on a high with a seventh victory as coach Michael Clarke looks to build momentum heading towards his third season at the helm.
They did fall behind early and trailed by as much as nine points, but they remained determined to finish the season on a good note and remained close enough to the Cougars. The Suns then caught fire with a huge 35-point to 28 final quarter to win by six points.
That sees the Suns finish the season with a 7-19 record while the Cougars will wait to see how this weekend shapes up to see where they finish with a 15-11 record as defending champions.
Courtney Belger topped off an outstanding season for the Eastern Suns leading the way in the win with 26 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Kerrod Horn has also taken the next step in his career in 2017 and showed that on Friday with 21 points and six rebounds with Rob Brandenberg ending up with 18 points, six boards, five assists and four steals.
Jamieson Lewis concluded his first season at Kalamunda after crossing from the Redbacks with 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals with Billy Grey adding eight points and eight boards, and Cooper Lowe six points.
Jalen Billups did all he could to try and lift Cockburn to the win with 30 points and 16 rebounds while point guard Seva Chan finished with 21 points and eight assists.
Gavin Field added 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Cockburn, 201-gamer Rhett Della 12 points and Lochlan Cummings 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
There are five Men’s SBL matches on Saturday night with all eyes on the regional fixtures with the Geraldton Buccaneers playing the Perry Lakes Hawks and the Goldfields Giants taking on the Rockingham Flames.
Perry Lakes needs to win to remain in eighth position, but a loss for the Hawks opens the door for Rockingham if they can win in Kalgoorlie.
The other three Saturday night matches sees the Joondalup City Wolves play the South West Slammers, the Mandurah Magic host the Stirling Senators and the East Perth Eagles face the Perth Redbacks.
FRIDAY NIGHT ROUND 20 MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Lakeside Lightning 93 defeated Willetton Tigers 81
Cockburn Cougars 101 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 107
SATURDAY NIGHT ROUND 20 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
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 Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)