THERE might have been just the two games in the Men’s SBL on Friday night but there was plenty on the line in both with the Perth Redbacks winning a thriller over the Willetton Tigers while the Rockingham Flames beat the South West Slammers.
Round 15 of the Men’s SBL began on Friday night with the two tantalising match ups including a rematch of last year’s semi finals with the Perth Redbacks winning a nail-biter 77-76 against the Willetton Tigers at Belmont Oasis.
The other contest took place at a packed Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Rockingham Flames defeating the South West Slammers 96-78.
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It was the Vern Hiddlestone Memorial Game on Friday night at Belmont Oasis with the Redbacks hosting the Tigers.
It was the first time the two teams had played since Game 2 of the semi-final series last year which the Redbacks prevailed in to advance to the Grand Final that they ended up winning after eliminating the minor premiers in Willetton.
That gave the Tigers plenty of motivation on return to the venue and it was a contest that never failed to disappoint from the outset and was played with a definite playoff intensity.
The biggest lead of the night was nine points in favour of the Redbacks while the Tigers managed to hold a six-point lead.
It was always destined to go down to the wire with the Redbacks leading 54-53 heading into the fourth quarter.
Jackson Hussey and Mo Barrow again put Perth up 58-55 before Willetton captain Kyle Armour nailed a triple to level scores with eight minutes left.
A pair of jumpers from Michael Vigor and Lee Roberts steadied the Redbacks again to lead 62-59 with 6:40 left but the Tigers answered with a triple to Jay Bowie. Andrew Black then hit another to put the visitors up three before Barrow drilled a three of his own.
A Badou Diagne three-point play then gave Willetton a three-point edge but a three from Ben Smith pulled the Redbacks level with just over three minutes left.
A couple of Diagne free-throws was answered by Vigor with scores again level and Vigor gave the Redbacks a one-point lead with a minute remaining with another jumper following a block from Armour on Joel Wagner.
Willetton regained the lead with a three from Bowie with 30 seconds left but Barrow responded to give the Redbacks the 77-76 edge.
That’s where the score stayed and the Redbacks improved to 13-6 in third spot as a result while the Tigers slipped to 10-9.
Michael Vigor played his best game of the season for the Redbacks with 18 points, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
Mo Barrow also had 18 points and five rebounds for Perth with Shawn Redhage contributing 12 points, eight boards and six assists, Lee Roberts 11 points and six rebounds, and Ben Smith with 11 points and five boards.
Badou Diagne continued his season-best run of form for Willetton with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three steals.
Jay Bowie also tried hard for the Tigers with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Kyle Armour finished with 12 points, four boards and three assists, Andrew Black 10 points and Damien Scott 10 points and six assists.
It was then a huge night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Flames hosting the Slammers with Rockingham attempting to set the SBL regular season attendance record.
Their team responded well getting off to a strong start and remaining in control through the evening leading by as much as 26 points and going on to win by 18 despite the departure of Kevin White.
The win improved the Flames to an 11-9 record to keep them inside the top eight while the Slammers slipped to 4-13 having now lost three in-a-row.
Justin Beard top-scored for Rockingham with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Ryan Godfrey added 19 points, five boards and four assists. Callum Beard also had 19 points and four assists.
The Flames had plenty more strong contributors with Curtis Washington finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Greg Hire 12 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Brian Voelkel fought valiantly for the Slammers with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with Travis Durnin contributing 14 points and six boards.
Sam Sopolinski showed some encouraging signs for South West with 11 points and three rebounds while Clive Weeden had 11 points, Brandon Thompson 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Michael Lay eight points eight points, six boards and three assists.
WEEK 15 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Rockingham Flames 96 defeated South West Slammers 78
Perth Redbacks 77 defeated Willetton Tigers 76
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