THE Stirling Senators will look to swiftly bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns by taking on the defending champion Perth Redbacks and the Geraldton Buccaneers who eliminated them in 2017 on back-to-back nights in Round 8 of the Men’s SBL.
The Senators started the 2018 season impressively following their quarter-final exits the past two seasons under coach Mike Ellis, but last Saturday night’s road loss to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns by 35 points was far from ideal.
Stirling now has a challenging Round 8 starting against the defending champion Perth Redbacks at Belmont Oasis on Friday night and the Geraldton Buccaneers at Warwick Stadium on Saturday night.
The other Friday night match in the Men’s SBL sees the Joondalup Wolves host the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at HBF Arena.
Then also on Saturday night, the Goldfields Giants play the South West Slammers, the Willetton Tigers take on the Rockingham Flames, the Perry Lakes Hawks battle the Lakeside Lightning, the Mandurah Magic host the East Perth Eagles and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns face the Cockburn Cougars.
There are then two more matches on Sunday afternoon with the Rockingham Flames playing the Geraldton Buccaneers and the Cockburn Cougars taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks.
The round begins on Friday night with the Redbacks hosting the Senators in the battle of two teams who have started the season well and come into the weekend both on 6-3 record.
The Redbacks have amassed that 6-3 record while still without championship winning big men Lee Roberts and Michael Vigor as Jackson Hussey and Mo Barrow become adjusted to their new teams.
The Senators have started the season well too on the back of losing in the quarter finals in each of the last two years, but their performance last Saturday particularly with their shooting display was one to forget.
The end result was a 35-point loss to Kalamunda so the Senators will look to bounce back and make a statement against the Redbacks on Friday night.
The other Friday night match in the Men’s SBL sees the Wolfpack host the Eastern Suns at HBF Arena where they remain undefeated.
The Wolves bounced back well with a double-header last week from their first loss of the season in Geraldton the previous Saturday night. They beat the Eagles on Friday night by 17 points and then the Flames in Rockingham by two points on Saturday night.
The Eastern Suns, meanwhile, did well to thumping the Senators by 35 points last Saturday night to improve to a 4-6 record and they have a chance to really highlight their improvement in 2018 with a strong showing against the Wolves.
There are then six matches in the Men’s SBL on Saturday night starting in Kalgoorlie with the Giants hosting the Slammers.
Both teams have recorded their first wins of the season in recent weeks and this shapes as a game where the winner can try to get some momentum into their campaign while it’s a long way back for the losers.
The Giants couldn’t quite make it consecutive wins losing to Perry Lakes last Saturday night after winning on the road to Kalamunda the previous Sunday. The Slammers, meanwhile, broke through after seven losses to beat the Cougars at home by 10 points last Saturday night.
The Senators then back up their clash with the Redbacks on Friday night by hosting the Buccaneers at Warwick Stadium on Saturday night.
The Buccs knocked out the Senators in the quarter finals last year and will be determined to respond to a shock loss at home to the Magic last Saturday night.
The Tigers and Flames also do battle at Willetton Basketball Stadium in what looms as another tantalising match up.
Willetton had a slightly slow start to the season but is building some strong form now including a four-point win at home to the Redbacks last Saturday night. That improved last year’s minor premiers to a 5-3 record on the season.
Rockingham last narrowly at home last week to the league-leading Wolves but with Greg Hire, Josh Ritchart, Curtis Washington and Ryan Godfrey up and going, it is an impressive Flames outfit who can make a statement at Willetton if they can improve on their 6-3 record.
Another terrific contest on Saturday night looms at Bendat Basketball Centre with the Hawks hosting the Lightning.
Perry Lakes has now welcomed Jacob Holmen as a replacement for Tyler Monroe over the last two weeks and have improved to a 5-3 record including a solid 10-point win in Kalgoorlie over the Giants last Saturday night.
The Lightning, too, played well last Saturday night to beat East Perth at Morley by eight points even without Daniel Alexander who is yet to arrive and Mason Bragg who has now departed.
That saw Lakeside improve to a 4-4 record setting the tone for a terrific contest on Saturday night.
Mandurah returns home on Saturday night too to Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre to host East Perth. The Magic are back on a high after winning in Geraldton against the Buccs last Saturday night just days after a hefty home loss on Anzac Day to the Redbacks.
The Eagles, meanwhile, delivered two competitive efforts last weekend but lost to both the Wolves and Lightning to slip to a 4-6 record on the season as they look to get closer to .500 with a win in Mandurah on Saturday night.
East Perth coach Aaron Berryman is looking forward to the challenge against the Magic as he looks to get the best out of his developing group.
“To be honest this year we know all teams are going to compete and I know that people when I saw us coming through as a team this year, we’d like to push those critics aside and just worry about ourselves inside the club,” Berryman said.
“It’s a culture thing that we are still building on and Mandurah is no different. We’ll play them the way we see them and we have to just be disciplined. I’m not concerned about who’s up the top or who’s down the bottom, we have to play exactly the same way and suss it out at the start of the game.
“We hope that we can push good teams and Mandurah has just knocked off Geraldton, which is great for them. But we aren’t afraid of that, we had a shot at Redbacks so if you let your guards down any team can beat anyone in this league.
“That win was a good feeling because it tells us where we should be and we are building on that. There are a lot of loose ends and one percenters that we still have to tidy up, but hopefully by the time we play these teams a second time we have those sorted out.”
The last game of Saturday night sees the Eastern Suns play the Cougars at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Kalamunda will have played the Wolves on Friday while the Cougars need a win having slipped to 2-6 including a loss by 10 points in Bunbury last Saturday night to the Slammers.
There are then two matches in the Men’s SBL on Sunday starting at midday with the Flames hosting the Buccs. Rockingham will have played at Willetton the previous night and Geraldton having faced Stirling.
The Cougars also host the Hawks at Wally Hagan Stadium with Cockburn having played Kalamunda on Saturday night and Perry Lakes coming off a game against Lakeside.
The game will mark the first time that former Cougars pair Lochlan Cummings and Dan Thomas return to their old home floor in a Perry Lakes uniform to play their former team.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 8
Perth Redbacks v Stirling Senators – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Joondalup Wolves v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – HBF Arena 8.30pm
Goldfields Giants v South West Slammers – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Stirling Senators v Geraldton Buccaneers – Warwick Stadium 7.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Rockingham Flames – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Lakeside Lightning – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v East Perth Eagles – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Cockburn Cougars – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Rockingham Flames v Geraldton Buccaneers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 12.00pm
Cockburn Cougars v Perry Lakes Hawks – Wally Hagan Stadium 2.00pm