FRIDAY night in Round 18 is highlighted with a monster battle between the Joondalup Wolves and Perry Lakes Hawks at HBF Arena before every team is involved across seven matches on Saturday as the race for the finals in the Men’s SBL heats up.
It’s the third last round of the regular season meaning that for teams like the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Cockburn Cougars and East Perth Eagles it’s now or never to make a run to staying in playoff contention.
But then for teams currently inside the top eight, the Joondalup Wolves need to keep winning to stay second, the Perry Lakes Hawks need to do the same to stay fourth while the Lakeside Lightning try to overcome the horrific injury to Jack Isenbarger with storylines everywhere you look.
Friday night of Round 18 sees the Joondalup Wolves play the Perry Lakes Hawks at HBF Arena and the Willetton Tigers take on the Mandurah Magic at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
It’s then a monster Saturday with seven games with all 14 teams involved starting with two matches scheduled for 6pm with the Perth Redbacks playing the Rockingham Flames and the Cockburn Cougars facing the South West Slammers.
Then at 7.30pm, the Geraldton Buccaneers face the Stirling Senators and the Perry Lakes Hawks take on the Goldfields Giants.
Finally at 8pm, the Lakeside Lighting play the Joondalup Wolves, the Mandurah Magic face the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and the East Perth Eagles host the Willetton Tigers.
The round then concludes on Sunday at noon with the East Perth Eagles hosting the Goldfields Giants.
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Round 18 in the Men’s SBL begins on Friday night at HBF Arena with the Wolfpack returning home to host the Hawks and to mark the occasion, the home team will be turning yellow in Cancer Awareness Round with the Gaye Mayger Shield on the line.
It’s a huge game in the context of the season for both clubs too with the Wolves sitting second and the Hawks fourth.
Joondalup lost last week in Kalgoorlie to the Giants and have surrendered top spot in the process and while it’s going to be tough to regain that given the Buccaneers have the split over them, they won’t want to drop from second.
The Wolfpack currently hold an 18-4 record to remain solid in second but they won’t want to start a losing slide to put that in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Perry Lakes heads to HBF Arena on an eight-game winning streak to now sit fourth at 14-8. The Hawks might struggle to finish higher than fourth but they will want to hold on to that top four spot now that they are there having earlier struggled to a five-game losing run.
The other Friday night match features the Tigers in a must-win situation hosting the Magic at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Tigers have now lost three in-a-row to slip to eighth position entering Round 18 including a heartbreaker in overtime on their home floor last Friday night to the Cockburn Cougars.
That leaves Willetton with five games over the last three rounds to go and they need to get on a winning run to secure a playoff berth, starting Friday against the Magic.
But it won’t be easy with Mandurah playing some good basketball of late including a 21-point road win last Saturday night over East Perth before a narrow home loss to Stirling on Sunday.
The Magic might be out of the playoff race at 5-16 but they are proving difficult to beat.
Attention then turns to Saturday with seven matches and all 14 teams involved starting at 6pm with the Redbacks hosting the Flames at Belmont Oasis.
The Redbacks will be celebrating SBL Family Day and wearing special black uniforms for the occasion that will later be auctioned off for charity.
It’s a game featuring two teams with plenty to play for too with the Redbacks currently on a three-game winning run in third position at 16-7 and the more they keep winning, it keeps the pressure on the second placed Wolves.
It’s a crucial game too for Rockingham’s playoff hopes with the Flames coming into it at 11-11 in seventh spot and having lost two in-a-row. Another loss and the Flames are flirting with dropping out of the top eight with three games over the last two rounds to come.
There’s going to be a smorgasbord of talent on display too including current and former NBL players Shawn Redhage, Joel Wagner, Michael Vigor and Jackson Hussey up against Greg Hire and Kevin White along with the supremely talented Lee Roberts, Mo Barrow and Curtis Washington among others.
The other 6pm starting game on Saturday features the Cougars hosting the Slammers in a battle of two teams outside of playoff positions.
Cockburn won a stunning overtime contest against Willetton last Friday but couldn’t quite back it up losing a tight one at home to Geraldton on Saturday.
That sees the Cougars enter Round 18 in 10th position at 9-14 and needing to win their last three games to be any hope of taking part in playoff action for 2018.
The Slammers can’t make it currently sitting last at 5-17 having lost seven of their past eight, but with Brian Voelkel and Travis Durnin in good form, they can still be nuisance value.
Geraldton’s celebration weekend of its 30-year history will then feature the Buccaneers hosting the Senators at Active West Stadium from 7.30pm on Saturday night.
The Buccs come into the contest in first position too after a double-win road weekend against the Cougars and Lightning to see them improve to a 19-3 record. They have now won 13 of their last 14 games to be on target for the regular season championship.
They will be tested by the Senators, though, who are coming off two wins last weekend too against the Flames and Magic to have improved to sixth position with a 13-10 record.
The other 7.30pm tip-off game on Saturday night takes place at Bendat Basketball Centre with the Hawks hosting the Giants.
Perry Lakes will be coming off playing the Wolves at HBF Arena on Friday night while the Giants begin their double-header on the road trying to back up an impressive home win over the Wolves last Saturday night.
The rest of the Saturday night matches then all tip-off at 8pm starting with the Lightning hosting the Wolves at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
It will be Lakeside’s first game since Jack Isenbarger’s devastating leg injury suffered in the first quarter of Sunday’s eventual home loss to Geraldton.
His season is over but the Lightning’s certainly isn’t with them still sitting in fifth position with a 13-9 record even though Isenbarger will be tough to replace given he and Daniel Alexander were likely the most in-form import duo in the competition.
But it’s a big game for Lakeside where a win can keep them in touch for a top four finish while a loss has them fighting to still finish as high possible.
The Wolves will be coming off their battle against the Hawks on Friday night and could themselves be desperate to win.
The Magic are then in action again, this time hosting the Eastern Suns at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Mandurah will have already played one desperate team in Willetton on Friday before Kalamunda come to Mandurah needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Suns lost by 10 points to Perry Lakes last Saturday to slip to a fourth successive defeat and now at 9-14, they probably can’t afford to lose any of their last three games if they hope to reach the post-season.
The last game on Saturday night takes place at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre with the Eagles hosting the Tigers.
East Perth needs to win all its remaining four matches to be a remote chance still of reaching the playoffs after a disappointing 21-point home loss to Mandurah last Saturday night.
They will be hosting an equally desperate Willetton on Saturday night who would have already played host to Mandurah on Friday.
The round then concludes with the Eagles and Giants both backing up playing on Saturday night by doing battle at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre from noon on Sunday.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 18
Joondalup Wolves v Perry Lakes Hawks – HBF Arena 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Mandurah Magic – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.30pm
Perth Redbacks v Rockingham Flames – Belmont Oasis 6.00pm
Cockburn Cougars v South West Slammers – Wally Hagan Stadium 6.00pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Stirling Senators – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Goldfields Giants – Bendat Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Joondalup Wolves – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
East Perth Eagles v Willetton Tigers – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
East Perth Eagles v Goldfields Giants – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 12.00pm