ROUND 2 of the 2018 Men’s SBL season sees the Kalamunda Eastern Suns tackle both Grand Finalists, the Perth Redbacks and Joondalup Wolves, from last year with the South West Slammers, Lakeside Lightning, Goldfields Giants and Geraldton Buccaneers all having their home openers.
The Round 2 action gets underway with the two matches on Friday night with the Perry Lakes Hawks playing the East Perth Eagles at Bendat Basketball Centre and the Perth Redbacks hosting the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Belmont Oasis.
Then on Saturday night, the Goldfields Giants host the Cockburn Cougars, the Geraldton Buccaneers play the Rockingham Flames, the South West Slammers face the Mandurah Magic, the Lakeside Lightning take on the Perry Lakes Hawks and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns battle the Joondalup Wolves.
Then finally on Sunday afternoon, the Stirling Senators play the Willetton Tigers at Warwick Stadium.
The Round 2 action gets underway on Friday night with the Hawks hosting the Eagles.
Perry Lakes was impressive in its season-opener last Saturday night beating the Mandurah Magic at home by 28 points with Lochlan Cummings (24 points), Ryan Smith (20), Ben Purser (18), Brian Carlwell (16) and Tyler Monroe (15) all impressive.
Meanwhile, East Perth started its 2018 season beating Cockburn on the road by six points on Friday night before coming up four points short at home to the Buccs on Sunday, setting the stage for an intriguing battle on Friday night.
The other Friday night fixture pits the Redbacks up against the Eastern Suns.
The Redbacks started their championship defence in style in Round 1 with home victories against the Lakeside Lightning and Geraldton Buccaneers.
Kalamunda, though, won its first ever season-opener in club history on Sunday beating the South West Slammers by 26 points with the front court of Kevin Davis and Logan Viskovich particularly impressive.
That sets the stage for another terrific battle on Friday with the added intrigue that the Suns did happen to beat the Redbacks in latter part of 2017 at Belmont.
The Redbacks might still be waiting for the arrival of Lee Roberts and Michael Vigor, but they aren’t exactly lacking talent and experience with Shawn Redhage, Alex Loughton, Mo Barrow, Jackson Hussey, Ben Smith and Joel Wagner among those up and going early in 2018.
Friday’s game at home to the Suns will be the last with the Redbacks for 2018 for Loughton, but coach Nik Lackovic couldn’t be happier with what he has got from the Cairns Taipans big man coming off a standout NBL season.
“It was as simple as me picking up the phone to Al and asking if he had three or four games that he could come back for at the start of the season, and it was as simple as ‘Yeah, I’m there.’ He is there because he is like a kid in a candy store, he just loves the game,” Lackovic said.
“He is 34, turning 35, but at the first training session he had all the guys lined up playing one-on-one from the 16-year-olds to the 25-year-olds before I walk into the gym. You just can’t measure that.
“We feel very privileged that someone like him can enjoy the environment, enjoy the people and enjoy our culture. Someone like that is instrumental in our development. Part of my responsibility is player and people management, and bringing in the right people who can make us a good club.”
As for the Eastern Suns, it has been a progressive build over the past two years under coach Michael Clarke and they look to be vastly improved so far in 2018.
They were impressive last Sunday beating the Slammers and that was with Louis Timms and Courtney Belger to be added to that line-up.
But now the Suns face the two Grand Final teams from last year this weekend and Clarke is looking forward to learning more about his group.
“It’s a huge weekend for us. We are sitting on a nice win to start the season and we could be reeling from a loss or two next round, those are the rollercoasters you go through in any season,” Clarke said.
“Things won’t get any easier for us but it’s going to be very interesting to see how we stack up against the benchmark teams in the league. Both the Redbacks and Wolves are what you would consider that so we want to find out where we are at right now in comparison to them.”
Viskovich was outstanding last Sunday for the Suns with 25 points and seven rebounds on debut for Kalamunda. This will be his first chance to play his former Redbacks team and Clarke will give him every chance to shine.
“I always ask them whether they want to play against their old side and they usually say yes,” Clarke said.
“I like to start them against their old side and give them opportunity and confidence. I guess it’s an individual thing but I think a lot of them have a point to prove. I don’t stand in the way of that.”
Then on Saturday night, the Giants have their first game in Kalgoorlie for 2018 under new coach Scott Rubery as they play host to the Cougars.
It was a tough opening weekend on the road for the Giants with a five-point loss to Rockingham on Saturday night and a 45-point defeat at the hands of Stirling on Sunday.
Cockburn is also looking for its first win of 2018 following a narrow six-point loss at home to East Perth last Friday night.
The new-look Buccaneers are also at home in Geraldton for the first time in 2018 as the Buccs play host to the Flames on Saturday night.
The Buccs split their road double last weekend starting with a 19-point loss to the Redbacks before beating the Eagles by four points on Sunday.
The Flames also had a double-header in the opening round starting with a two-point home loss to Stirling before beating Goldfields also at home by five points on Saturday night.
Lakeside is another team playing at home for the first in 2018 on Saturday night with the Lightning playing their first game on their home floor under new coach Dave Daniels up against the Hawks.
Perry Lakes will be coming off having played East Perth on Friday night while the Lightning starting the new season last Friday night with a 14-point road loss to the defending champion Redbacks.
Another Saturday night game has Kalamunda back at home having played Perth on Friday to take on a Joondalup team coming off playing in the last three SBL Grand Finals.
The Wolfpack started their 2018 campaign with a six-point at their new home of HBF Arena last Saturday night against Willetton.
Also on Saturday night, the Slammers are playing their first game at home for 2018 up against the Magic.
Both had tough starts to their season on the road last weekend with the Slammers losing to Kalamunda by 26 points on Sunday while Mandurah went down to Perry Lakes by 28 points on Saturday night.
Slammers coach Carl Catalano knows his team could take some time to build into 2018 with Brian Voelkel yet to arrive and some other players coming off limited preparation, but he’s looking forward to getting back to Eaton for the team’s first home game since Game 2 of last year’s semi finals.
“We played them at the Blitz and that can be hard to take much out of, but Aaron has a young group as well who he has playing hard. We are not going to take any team lightly and we hope by the end of the season nobody takes us lightly,” Catalano said.
“Getting back home to Eaton will be great, but we have four of our first six away so we need to take care of business at home and then try and steal some games on the road. We are looking forward to it and I know the guys are looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd.
“It’s been a long off-season and they have memories still of that Redbacks series and losing Game 2. That’s still in the mind of the guys who played that game and everything we are doing as a group is about taking that next step.”
The round then wraps up on Sunday afternoon at Warwick Stadium with the Senators hosting the Tigers.
It will be the only game of the round for both teams with Stirling having won twice in the opening round against Rockingham and Goldfields, while Willetton lost narrowly on the road to the Wolves at HBF Arena.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 2
Perry Lakes Hawks v East Perth Eagles – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.30pm
Perth Redbacks v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Cockburn Cougars – Niels Hansen Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Rockingham Flames – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
South West Slammers v Mandurah Magic – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Perry Lakes Hawks – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Joondalup Wolves – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Stirling Senators v Willetton Tigers – Warwick Stadium 2.00pm