THE penultimate round in the Women’s SBL could hardly start with two bigger games on Friday night with the league-leading Lakeside Lightning facing a Rockingham Flames team fighting for second spot and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Willetton Tigers going to battle over fourth.
With all teams either having one, two or three matches remaining in the regular season over the final two rounds, every game takes on increased significance in Round 19 in the Women’s SBL.
That is highlighted on Friday night when the Rockingham Flames host the Lakeside Lightning at Mike Barnett Sports Complex. A win for the Flames against the minor premiers would see them still a chance of snatching second spot from the Perth Redbacks.
Friday night’s other game then pits the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Willetton Tigers against one another at Ray Owen Sports Centre with fourth position and home court advantage in the quarter finals on the line.
That all leads into four more matches on Saturday night with the Cockburn Cougars playing the Mandurah Magic, the Joondalup Wolves facing the Rockingham Flames, the Lakeside Lightning battling the East Perth Eagles and the Willetton Tigers taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks.
There is another game then on Sunday with the South West Slammers hosting the Stirling Senators with those two teams as well battling over a playoff position.
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Round 19 in the Women’s SBL begins on Saturday night with the third placed Flames hosting the top-of-the-table Lightning.
Lakeside is guaranteed of finishing first currently holding a 19-1 record and on an 11-game winning streak, but the Flames opened up a chance to still finish second with last Saturday’s win over the second placed Redbacks.
That improved Rockingham to 14-5 and if they can win their last three games, second spot could be theirs but the job of beating Lakeside even on their home floor come Friday night will be more challenging without playmaker Jacinta Bourne.
While the Lightning can’t be removed from top spot, coach Craig Mansfield does want to see his team play well against a team they could very well end up facing during the playoffs.
“We now have Rockingham this weekend which will be a challenge and it’s Rockingham on the road. We look forward to that,” Mansfield said.
“I was really happy for them to get Harrison back and it will be good for us to go there and obviously Ryan will be prepping for the finals more so than our game on Friday and we’ll be the same.
“But it’s still good to put our best teams out on the floor and go against each other to get a bit of a read on how we’re travelling.
“Because outside of that, we had a tough run through the middle but have had a home heavy schedule on the run home. We have to keep working hard particularly through that bye weekend to finish.”
There’s then plenty at stake in Friday night’s other battle with the Eastern Suns hosting the Tigers at Ray Owen Sports.
It will be Kalamunda’s first home game since a win over Rockingham way back on June 16 and the Eastern Suns have done well to remain in fourth position at 13-7 after a tight win in Mandurah last Saturday night.
But that goes on the line on Friday against the Tigers who are breathing down their necks at 12-8 following a 21-point win last Saturday after a 37-point home loss to Mandurah.
The Tigers did win the first meeting of the season with the Suns by 10 points too so a win on Friday for Willetton will put them in a good position to claim fourth position given they will hold the split over Kalamunda.
But for the Suns too, a win will mean fourth position is all but theirs which would be a great result for coach Tom Knowles.
Attention then turns to Saturday afternoon starting with the Cougars hosting the Magic at Wally Hagan Stadium from 4pm.
Cockburn is out of the playoff race at 6-14 having lost their past three matches but they can still be nuisance value against a Mandurah team needing to win.
The Magic come into the game in sixth position at 9-11 and they do need one more win from their last two games of the season to ensure a playoff appearance. They certainly would like to take care of that on Saturday against the Cougars.
Then at 6pm on Saturday evening, the Wolves host the Flames at HBF Arena.
The Lady Wolfpack had two impressive first halves last weekend against the Hawks at home on Friday and the Lightning on the road on Saturday, but couldn’t maintain it in the second half to lost by a combined 55 points.
They will still be a challenging opponent for Rockingham, though, with the Flames coming off their game with the Lightning on Friday and knowing if they need to win or not against the Wolves for second spot to still be a possibility.
Lakeside then backs up its trip to Rockingham for its last regular season game hosting the East Perth Eagles at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
It was ugly last time the teams met at Morley with the Lightning winning 109-39. But the Eagles have been more competitive than that since despite still being winless in 2018.
Either way, no matter what happens Lakeside is destined to finish first and East Perth last come the end of the season.
The last game of Saturday night is another cracker with the defending champion Hawks hosting the Tigers in a rematch of last year’s semi-final contest.
Perry Lakes is now on fire having won three straight and eight of its last 10 matches to enter the round at 9-11 in seventh position.
Sixth position is the highest they can still rise to and a win on Saturday would help that cause while the Tigers’ motivation could largely depend on their result on Friday against Kalamunda.
The round then concludes on Sunday at Eaton Recreation Centre in another crucial encounter with the Slammers hosting the Senators.
The Slammers enter the round in ninth position at 8-12 and the Senators eighth at 9-11 meaning the winner on Sunday could very well end up taking part in the playoffs while the loser could miss out.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 19
Rockingham Flames v Lakeside Lightning – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.30pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Willetton Tigers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm
Cockburn Cougars v Mandurah Magic – Wally Hagan Stadium 4.00pm
Joondalup Wolves v Rockingham Flames – HBF Arena 6.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v East Perth Eagles – Lakeside Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Willetton Tigers v Perry Lakes Hawks – Willetton Basketball Stadium 6.00pm
South West Slammers v Stirling Senators – Eaton Recreation Centre 12.00pm