THE Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames locked away their playoff positions in the Men’s SBL with wins to open Round 19 on Friday night while the finals dreams of the Kalamunda Eastern Suns came to an end.
There was plenty riding on the results of both Friday night contests as the penultimate round of the 2018 Men’s SBL season got underway.
The Rockingham Flames stopped their three-game losing run and handed the Lakeside Lightning a third consecutive defeat with an 89-78 win at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
The Willetton Tigers then locked away their playoff position with a hard fought 104-96 victory against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
The results mean that the Flames, Tigers and Lightning are all locked in a battle over positions inside the second half of the top eight along with the Stirling Senators while the finals hopes of the Eastern Suns have come to an end with the loss in their final home match of 2018.
MEN’S SBL PREVIEW – WEEK 19
LIGHTNING COACH PROUD OF JACK, GROUP FOR HANDLING ADVERSITY
FIELD KEEPS TAKING PRIDE IN BEING HEART AND SOUL OF COUGARS
TRAHAIR SEES BRIGHT FUTURE IF MAGIC GROUP STICKS TOGETHER
REDBACKS AIMING BIG DESPITE THE TARGET AS DEFENDING CHAMPS
The stage was set for a huge contest at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Friday night with Rockingham hosting Lakeside with the Flames welcoming Sunday Dech as they attempted to lock in a playoff position.
The Lightning were also trying to bounce back from losing two tight games to the top two teams Geraldton and Joondalup, and it was the visitors who started strongly with Lakeside producing a 28-19 opening quarter.
But Rockingham turned things around in the second period with 29 points to 16 and the Flames were up 48-44 at half-time.
The game was still on the line heading into the final period, but it was Rockingham that found something when it mattered and the Flames produced 21 points to 13 for the term to come away with the 11-point win.
The victory improves Rockingham to a 12-12 record on the season with Lakeside slipping to 13-11.
Sunday Dech made a significant impact for the Flames in his debut appearance with 24 points and nine rebounds on shooting 9/16 from the field and 4/8 from three-point range.
Curtis Washington added 17 points and five rebounds for Rockingham with Kevin White contributing 11 points and five assists, Greg Hire 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Ryan Godfrey nine points and four assists, Justin Beard seven points and Luke Roberts seven points.
Daniel Alexander produced another impressive performance for Lakeside with 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists despite eight turnovers and while shooting 10/24 from the field, 4/12 from three-point range and 7/8 from the foul line.
Rowan Mackenzie added 20 points and five rebounds for the Lightning, and Matt Vinci 13 points.
It was then another crucial contest at Ray Owen Sports Centre with both Kalamunda and Willetton desperately needing the win.
The Tigers came into the contest having won two straight following a three-game losing run to steady themselves just inside the top eight while the Suns’ massive win last Saturday night over the Mandurah Magic kept their playoff hopes alive.
But the Eastern Suns needed the win to keep their hopes alive in their final home game of the season but Willetton started strongly to put Kalamunda on the back foot from the outset.
The Suns did a good job of getting to the foul line in the first quarter, though, and that helped them to trail by just the three points at quarter-time.
But again Willetton pulled away in a dominant second quarter to see them head into half-time leading 60-46 on the back of an offensive rebounds and put back on the buzzer from Michael Collins.
Willetton’s lead extended to a game-high 27 points during the third quarter on the back of three-pointers from Kyle Armour and Jake Burston.
But the Suns were always going to make a run and it did come during the fourth quarter.
It took just three minutes of the third quarter for Louis Timms to bring the Suns to within 10 points. The home team then had all the momentum with just a six-point deficit with five minutes remaining thanks to a score from Kevin Davis.
Willetton continued to have the answers, though, and led by a mid-range jumper, pair of free-throws and three from captain Armour, the Tigers withstood the charge of the Suns to win by eight.
It’s a third straight win for the Tigers who improve to 13-11 as a result while the Suns have now lost five of their last six to be 10-15 and out of the finals race.
Jay Bowie finished the game on the bench after copping a knock to his head during the last quarter but he still top-scored for the Tigers with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists on shooting 8/12 from the field.
Damien Scott added 19 points and nine assists for Willetton with Kyle Armour contributing 18 points, three boards and three assists, Badou Diagne 12 points, six rebounds and two assists, Jake Burston nine points and four boards, Hayden Noordhoek eight points and Andrew Black eight points and three assists.
Scott was happy with the way the Tigers set up the win in the opening three quarters.
“Coming out of the gates, we knew we had to come out and get a good lead because we know they are good in the second half,” Scott said.
“Once we got the jump on them, the first three quarters pretty much won us the game because we were pretty sloppy in the fourth. We played well in the first three quarters to get that win.”
The Tigers now have to back up on Saturday night against the Perry Lakes Hawks who are on a 10-game winning streak. Scott is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s definitely going to be another tough game. Us and Perry Lakes obviously have a bit of a rivalry including going back to last year when we knocked them out. They are a strong team and we know how tough they are. It’s going to be a tough one for sure,” Scott said.
“We were a bit shaky for a while and losing three games in-a-row says that, but we are travelling alright now and everyone in our team is really excited. No one doubts that we can go and get the win against Perry Lakes, we’re confident we can do it and we’re all up and about.”
Kevin Davis finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds for Kalamunda ending up shooting 8/16 from the field and 10/11 from the free-throw line.
Courtney Belger contributed 24 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Eastern Suns with Louis Timms adding 14 points and five rebounds. Carl Aylett also had seven points and three assists.
WEEK 19 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Rockingham Flames 89 defeated Lakeside Lightning 78
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 96 lost to Willetton Tigers 104
Cockburn Cougars v Mandurah Magic – Wally Hagan Stadium 6.00pm
South West Slammers v Geraldton Buccaneers – Eaton Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Perth Redbacks – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Joondalup Wolves v Rockingham Flames – HBF Arena 8.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v East Perth Eagles – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Willetton Tigers v Perry Lakes Hawks – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Geraldton Buccaneers – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 12.00pm
South West Slammers v Stirling Senators – Eaton Recreation Centre 2.00pm