THE Rockingham Flames and South West Slammers are desperate for a win while the Perth Redbacks and Willetton Tigers meet in a semi-final rematch and that’s just the Friday night Men’s Round 15 action before a monster Saturday evening made up of six matches.
There are two games in the Men’s SBL on Friday night with the Rockingham Flames hosting the South West Slammers with the home team needing to win to stay in the top eight and the visitors requiring a win to maintain their diminishing playoff hopes.
The other Friday night fixture is the Vern Hiddlestone Memorial Game as the Perth Redbacks host the Willetton Tigers in a rematch of last year’s semi-final series after the two teams ended the regular season in fourth and first place respectively.
That leaves another six matches for Saturday night with 12 of the 14 Men’s SBL teams in action.
It starts with three regional fixtures as the Goldfields Giants play the Stirling Senators, the Geraldton Buccaneers take on the East Perth Eagles and the South West Slammers face the Joondalup Wolves.
The other three Saturday night match ups feature the Lakeside Lightning against the Mandurah Magic, the Cockburn Cougars taking on the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and the Perry Lakes Hawks playing the Perry Lakes Hawks.
Friday night in the Men’s SBL begins with the Flames hosting the Slammers at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
It’s a crucial battle for both teams with Rockingham struggling last Saturday night losing to Kalamunda after beating Mandurah at home on Friday. That saw the Flames end up in eighth position at 10-9 and needing to keep winning to stay there.
Meanwhile, if the Slammers want to stay in the playoff race in 2018 they need to start stringing wins together and that has to start on Friday. They currently sit in 12th position at 4-12 coming off a 12-point home loss to East Perth last Saturday.
It’s then a semi-final rematch from last year at Belmont Oasis with the defending champion Redbacks hosting the Tigers.
Perth beat Willetton in Game 2 of the semi finals last year at the same venue to advance to the Grand Final and ultimately win the club’s first championship in 20 years.
This will be the Tigers’ first return visit to Belmont since that loss giving them added motivation on top of them needing to win to maintain their hold on a playoff berth.
The Tigers currently sit in sixth spot at 10-8 after beating the Giants at home by 12 points last Saturday on the back of a disappointing 22-point loss to Perry Lakes on Friday.
The Redbacks displayed some ominous form last Friday night hammering the Wolves by 33 points in a Grand Final rematch to improve to a 12-6 record in third position.
Willetton captain Kyle Armour knows that the Redbacks, along with the Joondalup Wolves and Geraldton Buccaneers, deserve to be considered the top three teams this year so far.
But he’s looking forward to the challenge against the Redbacks on Friday night and certainly will be using that loss in the semi finals at Belmont last year as added motivation.
“I hope that win for us can be the kickstart for us. We try to take each week and each game on its own merit, and now next week we have Redbacks and they are coming off a big win over the Wolves,” Armour said.
“Wolves, Redbacks and Gero are really the teams that the rest of the league is chasing but we are doing everything we can to throw everything at the Redbacks and see how we go. It will be a good test to see where we’re at in terms of the top eight.
“Individually I use it as a bit of fuel to the fire and that does leave a bad taste in the mouths of everyone that experienced that last year. So absolutely it’s motivation for this game.
“As a competitor, I can’t help but take that personally and want to just go out there and compete and throw everything at the Redbacks.”
There’s then six huge games on Saturday night too starting at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium with the Giants hosting the Senators.
Goldfields will be without suspended coach Scott Rubery but they will be hoping Jake Martin is right to go out after having to sit out Sunday’s heartbreaker to Cockburn having hurt his lower leg late on Saturday night against Willetton.
It was actually an impressive weekend by the Giants on the road and they easily could have won both against the Tigers and Cougars, but they came away frustrated and still with three wins on the season in bottom place.
They now return home to take on a Stirling team coming off an important win on Sunday against Kalamunda to steady at 10-9 in seventh position following a four-game losing run.
The Senators will be hoping Cody Ellis is right to go after breaking his nose during the second quarter of Sunday’s win while point guard Corban Wroe remains sidelined.
Then in Geraldton, the Buccaneers return home after a rollercoaster road double to host the in-form Eagles at Active West Stadium.
The Buccs made it nine straight wins beating the Wolves at HBF Arena last Saturday night becoming the first visiting team in the Men’s SBL to win at the new venue. But they couldn’t back it up blown out by Perry Lakes to the tune of 24 points on Sunday.
That sees the Buccaneers return home still in second spot at 15-3 while East Perth is in its best run of form of the season following the arrival of second import Anthony Golden.
The Eagles had lost five straight but have now won their previous three to get right back in the playoff hunt with an 8-11 record making for a fascinating trip to Geraldton.
The other regional encounter on Saturday night takes place at Eaton Recreation Centre with the Slammers hosting the Wolfpack.
South West will be coming off playing in Rockingham on Friday night while trying to erase memories of the 49-point loss to the Wolves at HBF Arena back in Round 4.
Joondalup, meanwhile, is coming off a horror weekend losing on the road to the Redbacks to 33 points and then their first game at HBF Arena with an eight-point defeat at the hands of the Buccs.
But despite that, the Wolfpack remain on top of the Men’s SBL with a 16-3 record despite their 11-game winning streak coming to an end.
Lakeside and Mandurah then lock horns at Lakeside Recreation Centre with both teams making their only appearances of the weekend.
The Lightning broke into the top four with a thumping 37-point win last Friday night over Cockburn to improve to a 10-8 record with Daniel Alexander unstoppable and earning Player of the Week honours.
They look like being a tough challenge for the Magic who have lost their past four matches including against Rockingham by seven points last Friday night. They sit in 13th spot at 3-13.
Perry Lakes and Perth then meet in what’s set to be another fascinating battle on Saturday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Hawks have now struck some ominous form having won their past four matches to be knocking on the top four door as they gear up to take on the defending champion Redbacks who would have already played host to Willetton on Friday.
The last game to look at for the round takes place at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars playing the Eastern Suns.
It’s a massive game for both teams who are desperate to remain in the playoff hunt with Cockburn entering in 11th position with a 7-11 record having pulled a win out of the fire last Sunday over the Giants thanks to Gavin Field to end a four-game losing slide.
The Eastern Suns couldn’t quite make it three straight falling to the Senators on Sunday after beating the Flames on Saturday night, but they are knocking on the door of a playoff spot at 9-11.
Suns coach Michael Clarke is excited that at this point of the season, a playoff spot is there for the taking for his team if they can string some wins together.
“I like the way we didn’t give up and we fought back in the third quarter on Sunday and just couldn’t quite get across the line in the fourth, but Stirling is a very good side and we are all fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Clarke said.
“You expect those games to be tough, tight and close encounters, and I think we are there and there abouts. It will be interesting to see how we close the season out from here.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 15
Rockingham Flames v South West Slammers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Perth Redbacks v Willetton Tigers – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Stirling Senators – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v East Perth Eagles – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
South West Slammers v Joondalup Wolves – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Mandurah Magic – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Cockburn Cougars v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Wally Hagan Stadium 8.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Perth Redbacks – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm