IT IS only fitting that in Heritage Round in the Men’s SBL that Geraldton Buccaneers captain Mat Wundenberg becomes the 10th player in league history to reach 400 games on Saturday night on his home floor against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
The SBL is celebrating Heritage Round in Week 16 of the 2018 season looking back on the competition that began in 1989 and has continued to grow from strength to strength ever since.
The round gets underway on Friday night with five of the six teams in action clubs that were there right back in that inaugural 1989 season.
That sees the Rockingham Flames play the Perry Lakes Hawks, the Stirling Senators host the Cockburn Cougars and the East Perth Eagles take on the Joondalup Wolves.
There are then five more matches on Saturday night starting at Active West Stadium with Wundenberg reaching his 400-game milestone as the Geraldton Buccaneers host the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
The Mandurah Magic also play the Goldfields Giants on Saturday night with the Perry Lakes Hawks hosting the South West Slammers, the Willetton Tigers playing the Lakeside Lightning and the Cockburn Cougars taking on the Perth Redbacks.
The Heritage Round action doesn’t stop there and on Sunday it’s the South West Slammers facing the Goldfields Giants from noon and the Perth Redbacks hosting the Mandurah Magic from 2pm.
Round 16 in the Men’s SBL begins on Friday night with the Flames hosting the Hawks in a contest featuring two teams locked in a battle over a playoff position.
There’s plenty at stake for both Rockingham and Perry Lakes coming into the game even though both Dan Thomas and Kevin White won’t be there for either side.
The Flames play host to the game coming off a win last Friday night over the Slammers that steadied them at an 11-9 record in sixth position on the standings.
The Hawks kept their stunning winning form going last Saturday night winning a heartstopper by three points over the Redbacks despite losing Thomas along the way.
Perry Lakes was looking in trouble when it last played Perth losing for a fifth straight time to be outside the top eight. But the Hawks have turned things around since and have now won five straight to be in fifth spot at 11-8 coming into Friday’s trip to Rockingham.
It’s yet another game with plenty at stake at Warwick Stadium on Friday night with the Senators hosting the Cougars.
Stirling lost again last Saturday night in a remarkable double overtime contest to the Goldfields Giants where they made the trip minus Cody Ellis and Corban Wroe.
That means the Senators are just clinging to eighth position entering Round 16 with a 10-10 record while Cockburn is one team with hopes of replacing them inside the top eight.
The Cougars came from behind to beat the Eastern Suns last Saturday night on the back of a huge performance from captain Gavin Field. That improved them to an 8-11 record so another win on Friday and they are right back in the hunt for another playoff appearance.
The last game on Friday night takes place at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre and should be another beauty as East Perth hosts Joondalup.
The Eagles might have lost last Saturday night in Geraldton, but were far from disgraced on the back of a three-game winning streak. That winning run kept their playoff hopes alive but they do remain in 11th spot at 8-12 coming into Friday’s match with the Wolfpack.
And that’s a Wolves team who despite losing to both the Redbacks and Buccaneers back in Round 14, remain on top of the Men’s SBL standings with a 17-3 record having bounced back with a 22-point win over the Slammers in Bunbury last Saturday night.
But the Wolves do need to keep winning to maintain top position while the Eagles do need to string wins together to retain their own playoff hopes.
There are then five matches on Saturday night in the Men’s SBL starting in Geraldton as the Buccaneers host the Eastern Suns.
The Buccs face the Suns at Active West Stadium with the home team looking to retain touch of top spot coming into the game second at 16-3 while the Eastern Suns have lost their past two and need to win to improve on a 9-12 record to try and break into a playoff position.
It’s also a notable night for the Buccs with inspirational captain Mat Wundenberg playing his 400th game in the SBL.
Wundenberg joins Troy Clarke (512), Ryan Neill (487), Joe-Alan Tupaea (479), Travis Moore (463) Greg Brown (450), Aaron Edwards (448), Ray Evans (412), Jason Bunter (411) and Seb Salinas (408) as SBL players to reach 400 games.
It’s quite fitting that he reaches the mark as the SBL celebrates Heritage Round and that he gets to enjoy the occasion on his home floor.
Across 399 games so far in the SBL with the Buccs, Wundenberg now sits fourth all-time in the league with 3806 rebounds as he chases down another Geraldton great, Dan Hunt who had 4599 across his 382 games.
Wundenberg might not catch Lakeside Lightning legend Jarrad Prue, though, who is the only person to surpass 5000 rebounds, let alone 6000 with him currently having raked in 6330 boards off the glass returning this season after two years of retirement.
Along with his 3806 rebounds in 399 games at an average of 9.5, Wundenberg has scored 2883 points for the Buccs, dished out 713 assists, blocked 215 shots and had 206 steals.
But Wundenberg continues to be a great warrior for the Buccs as he chases that elusive championship with his team having gone close in recent years with a Grand Final appearance in 2014, and losing in the semi finals each of the past two seasons.
The Giants then begin their road double-header against the Magic at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre on Saturday night.
The Giants were without coach Scott Rubery last Saturday night but beat the Senators in double overtime at home to get off the bottom of the standings.
That was at the expense of Mandurah and Goldfields will once again be without their suspended coach on Saturday night as they try to string two wins together and move two games clear of the bottom placed Magic.
Perry Lakes plays host to South West on Saturday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Hawks will be coming off playing the Flames in Rockingham on Friday while it will be the start of a double-header for the Slammers who enter the round in 12th position at 4-14 on a four-game losing skid.
The Tigers and Lightning make their only appearances of Round 16 on Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium in what should be a tremendous contest.
Willetton is coming off a nail-biting loss at the hands of the Redbacks last Friday night while the Lightning had a commanding 29-point victory against Mandurah.
The Tigers now enter Round 16 in seventh position at 10-9 while the Lightning are fourth at 11-8 so the difference between a win and loss for both teams will be significant.
The final game on Saturday night then takes place at Wally Hagan Stadium between the champions of the last two Men’s SBL seasons, Cockburn and Perth.
The Cougars won the championship in 2016 and then again reached the playoffs in 2017 before losing in the quarter finals to the Wolves. They currently sit in 10th position entering Round 16 and will play Stirling to start the round on Friday night before battling the Redbacks.
Perth won the championship last season and played in two thrillers last weekend, beating the Tigers and losing to the Hawks to currently sit third at 13-7 as they begin a double-header weekend by playing the Cougars on Saturday night.
There are then two more Men’s SBL matches on Sunday starting with the Slammers playing the Giants at Eaton Recreation Centre.
The Slammers will have played the Hawks on Saturday night while the Giants will be coming off a clash with the Magic in Mandurah.
The round then concludes at Belmont Oasis on Sunday afternoon with the Redbacks hosting the Magic. Perth can’t afford a drop off if they want to still stay in touch for a top two finish while Mandurah would love to cause an upset over the defending champions.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 16
Rockingham Flames v Perry Lakes Hawks – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Stirling Senators v Cockburn Cougars – Warwick Stadium 8.30pm
East Perth Eagles v Joondalup Wolves – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Mandurah Magic v Goldfields Giants – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v South West Slammers – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm
Willetton Tigers v Lakeside Lightning – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.00pm
Cockburn Cougars v Perth Redbacks – Wally Hagan Stadium 8.00pm
South West Slammers v Goldfields Giants – Eaton Recreation Centre 12.00pm
Perth Redbacks v Mandurah Magic – Belmont Oasis 2.00pm