THEY might be clear on top of the Men’s SBL ladder but it’s a potentially season-defining Round 14 for the Joondalup Wolves as they hit the road against the defending champion Perth Redbacks on Friday night and then host the Geraldton Buccaneers on Saturday.
The Wolves have lost just the one game so far in 2018 on the back of playing in the previous three Mens’ SBL Grand Finals – winning a championship in 2015 and then losing to Cockburn in 2016 and Perth in 2017.
That has them sitting a game clear on top of the standings at 16-1 on an 11-game winning streak but this weekend could tell plenty about where the Wolfpack truly sit in 2018 along with where the Redbacks and Buccs stack up.
It’s a Grand Final rematch at Belmont Oasis on Friday night with the Redbacks trying to snap a two-game losing run to remain solid in third position as the Wolves look to stretch their winning run to 12.
It’s then on to HBF Arena on Saturday night with the Wolfpack attempting to stay undefeated on their new home floor against a Buccaneers team on an eight-game winning run at 14-2 and having been the only team to beat Joondalup in 2018 to date.
The other Friday night fixtures see the Perry Lakes Hawks play the Willetton Tigers, the Lakeside Lightning take on the Cockburn Cougars and the Rockingham Flames host the Mandurah Magic.
Then also on Saturday night, the Willetton Tigers play the Goldfields Giants, the South West Slammers face the East Perth Eagles and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns take on the Rockingham Flames.
There are then three more contests on Sunday afternoon with the Cockburn Cougars playing the Goldfields Giants, the Perry Lakes Hawks hosting the Geraldton Buccaneers and the Stirling Senators battling the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
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Friday night in the Men’s SBL begins with the second Grand Final rematch of 2018 as the Redbacks host the Wolves at Belmont Oasis.
They first met earlier this season at HBF Arena with the Wolfpack winning by 19 points back in Round 3 but there’s sure to plenty of feeling in the return encounter on Friday night.
It’s a big game in the context of the season for both teams too. A win for the Wolfpack and it is hard to see them not securing a top two position at least in 2018 while a win for the Redbacks and they stay right in the race to still finish top two.
The Wolves come into the game on an 11-game winning on a 16-1 record while the Redbacks are third at 11-6 having lost two straight on the road to the Eastern Suns and Buccaneers.
That sets the stage for what could be quite the dramatic night with the added bonus of it being a Grand Final rematch thrown in.
Also on Friday night, it’s another fascinating contest at Bendat Basketball Centre with the Hawks playing the Tigers in their first clash at the venue since Ray Turner’s stunning Game 2 quarter-final game winner that kept Willetton’s season alive.
The Tigers went on to win Game 3 on their home floor in that series having won the regular season championship but now the teams looking significantly more evenly placed in 2018.
The Hawks come into the game having won two straight since a five-game losing run and have built some momentum again against East Perth and Mandurah to be back in seventh place with an 8-8 record.
Willetton regained the services of Jay Bowie last week and came away with a solid nine-point win on the road to the Slammers to steady themselves in fourth position at 9-7.
With just one game separating the two teams, it’s a significant contest for both clubs with a win for Willetton keeping them in the top four while a win for Perry Lakes puts them right in the top four hunt.
It’s another big game at Lakeside Recreation Centre on Friday night with the Lightning and Cougars both needing a win.
Lakeside had done well winning five straight upon the arrival of Daniel Alexander, Bryan Michaels and Corey Shervill, but they came back to earth last Saturday night losing to Kalamunda by 27 points.
That saw the Lightning slip to a 9-8 record and they need to win to retain their spot inside the top eight on Saturday night while the Cougars need a win to remain in contention too.
Cockburn caught fire with Clint Steindl in the line-up with wins over East Perth and Willetton inside 24 hours back in Round 10. But since he fractured his wrist, they haven’t tasted a win with losses to Lakeside, Rockingham and Joondalup.
That leaves the Cougars in 11th position with a 6-10 record entering Friday’s crucial clash with the Lightning.
The last game of the evening then pits the Flames against the Magic in Rockingham.
Rockingham had been playing well with the arrival of Illawarra Hawks NBL captain Kevin White beating Willetton, East Perth and Cockburn but without Greg Hire last week, they were hammered in Kalgoorlie by 25 points by the Giants.
Hire will be back this Friday night and Rockingham will be hoping to bounce back to improve on their 9-8 record to consolidate a playoff spot against a Mandurah team sitting second last at 3-12 on a three-game losing run.
Saturday night’s Men’s SBL action begins at Willetton Basketball Stadium with the Tigers hosting the Giants.
Willetton will be coming off a road trip against Perry Lakes on Friday while the Giants begin their road double on a high having beating Rockingham at home by 25 points last Saturday night for their third win of the 2018 season.
It’s then on to HBF Arena on Saturday night as the top two teams lock horns with the Wolves hosting the Buccs at a venue they still haven’t lost in.
Geraldton did beat Joondalup at Active West Stadium earlier in the season, but now plenty could be learned about both line-ups on Saturday night.
A win and the Wolves could go a long way to securing top spot while a win for the Buccs and they will claim top position and hold the series split over Joondalup.
On top of the fact they are the top two teams this year, the Wolves and Buccs are coming off a hard fought semi-final battle last season that saw the Wolfpack prevail at home in Game 3 in the last ever SBL game at Joondalup Basketball Stadium.
The Slammers and Eagles both make their only appearances of the weekend when they do battle on Saturday night at Eaton Recreation Centre.
It’s a big game for both clubs too as they try to stay in playoff contention. The Slammers lost at home to Willetton by nine points last Saturday night to slip to a 4-11 record while East Perth ended its five-game losing run with wins against Kalamunda and Stirling.
It was an impressive weekend by the Eagles benefitting from the presence of import guard Anthony Golden and with big man Jonathan Morse coming up big to earn Player of the Round honours.
That weekend improved East Perth to a 7-11 record to be knocking on the door of the top eight heading into Saturday’s trip to Bunbury.
The final game on Saturday night sees the Eastern Suns host the Flames at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Kalamunda is beginning its double-header while Rockingham will be coming off hosting the Magic on Friday night. The Suns come into Round 14 in ninth position with an 8-10 record following an emphatic 27-point win over the Lightning at home last Saturday night.
There are then three more matches in the Men’s SBL on Sunday starting at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars hosting the Giants. Cockburn will be coming off a road trip to Lakeside on Friday and Goldfields having played at Willetton on Saturday.
Perry Lakes then backs up hosting Willetton on Friday by taking on the Buccaneers at Bendat Basketball Centre. The Buccs could either be playing to further secure top spot or bounce back from falling two games short of top spot in their game against the Wolves on Saturday.
The final game of the round then sees the Senators host the Eastern Suns at Warwick Stadium. Kalamunda will have played Rockingham the night before while Stirling has lost four straight in the absence of injured point guard to need a win to avoid slipping out of the top eight.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 14
Perry Lakes Hawks v Willetton Tigers – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.30pm
Perth Redbacks v Joondalup Wolves – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Cockburn Cougars – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Rockingham Flames v Mandurah Magic – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Goldfields Giants – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Joondalup Wolves v Geraldton Buccaneers – HBF Arena 7.30pm
South West Slammers v East Perth Eagles – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Rockingham Flames – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Cockburn Cougars v Goldfields Giants – Wally Hagan Stadium 12.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Geraldton Buccaneers – Bendat Basketball Centre 12.00pm
Stirling Senators v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Warwick Stadium 2.00pm