THE final round of the Men’s SBL regular season gets underway on Friday night with the Rockingham Flames hosting the Cockburn Cougars in support of raising awareness for mental health before six matches on Saturday night as teams gear up for the 2018 playoffs.
There is just the one game on the Men’s SBL on Friday night and it will be an important occasion at Mike Barnett Sports Complex as the Flames host the Cougars in support of raising mental health awareness with the support of Greg Hire’s charity, A Stitch in Time.
That leads into Saturday night with six matches and the other 12 teams all in action to play their last matches of the regular season.
The teams taking part in the playoff may be sorted, but the Lakeside Lightning, Stirling Senators, Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames are all jockeying for positions in the bottom four spots of the top eight while South West, Mandurah and Goldfields try to avoid the wooden spoon.
Saturday night gets underway with the Goldfields Giants playing the Lakeside Lightning and the Geraldton Buccaneers hosting the Willetton Tigers.
The South West Slammers then also play the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, the East Perth Eagles take on the Perth Redbacks, the Mandurah Magic face the Joondalup Wolves and the Stirling Senators battle the Perry Lakes Hawks.
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There is just the one match in the Men’s SBL on Friday night with the Flames hosting the Cougars in Rockingham.
Rockingham is guaranteed of taking part in the finals while Cockburn can’t make it but it should be a fascinating battle just to watch Greg Hire and Gavin Field go to war.
The Flames come into the round having guaranteed t heir playoff position last Friday night with a win at home over the Lakeside Lightning before losing 24 hours later on the road to the Joondalup Wolves.
But their current 12-13 record is good enough for eighth spot while the Cougars are out of contention at 10-15 despite the best efforts of Field in recent times, including a 60-point outburst last Saturday night against the Magic.
The Friday night contest will also be significant in terms of being used to raise awareness for mental health and done so in support of the A Stitch in Time charity.
Hire is the man behind that and he is proud that Rockingham is getting behind the cause in such a way.
“You can’t underestimate the value of a grassroots club like Rocko to reflect the importance of mental health. That Peel region has been heavily affected by suicides and mental illness and the club spoke to me about working with A Stitch in Time and the organisation and it was a no-brainer to align,” Hire said.
“I’ve only been there for a short time, but for them to share in my passion and get behind it is really special and reaffirms why I joined a club like that. They are trying to promote the awareness and resources needed to help combat mental illness and that’s something next year’s we’ll try and do next year is have a full mental health round in the SBL.
“It’s a very important message and last week seven state mental health bodies from around Australia came together for message of ‘You can talk.’ This is a perfect time to get involved in that alignment and irrespective of or age or demographic, you can’t escape the importance of it.
“Basketball helps to bridge that a little bit and opens it up to everyone and through the game and initiative, we are trying to irradiate the stigma surround mental health and promote people feeling comfortable talking about it.
“We want to bring some spotlight to the alarming statistics and it’s important for A Stitch in Time as an organisation to run workshops for Rockingham Flames similar to what we do in the Pilbara, Kimberly and Perth metropolitan schools.
“That’s something that I am more proud about because we have a hands on approach and it’s more than just doing lip service to trying impact lives and hopefully save them too.”
One of two Saturday night fixtures pitting two playoff bound teams against one another takes place at Warwick Stadium between the Senators and Hawks.
Stirling comes into the game following a solid win on the road to the Slammers last Sunday to have them entering the final round in sixth position at 14-11 and still a chance of finishing fifth.
By finishing fifth, that would set up a clash with the Hawks in the quarter finals and for them to do that, they would have end the winning run of Perry Lakes on Saturday night.
The Hawks’ season was precariously placed when they had lost five games in-a-row, but since then they have won 11 straight to be locked into fourth position at 17-8 on the back of a simply remarkable come from behind victory away to Willetton last Saturday night.
So the stage is set for a cracker on Saturday night in what could be quarter-final preview and Stirling star Cody Ellis is looking forward to the challenge of trying to end the winning run of Perry Lakes.
“Confidence is what we try to take out of it. As a team we’ve got a few younger guys so if we can go out and take it to Perry Lakes then it helps build a bit of confidence going into finals for us,” Ellis said.
“Especially because they have won so many on the trot now, if we can snatch a win off them I think that will help us and maybe possibly get into their heads a little bit. Now that finals are upon us just about, it becomes a different ball game.”
The other contest featuring two playoff bound teams sees the regular season champion Buccaneers play last year’s minor premiers, Willetton, at Active West Stadium.
The Buccs are guaranteed of top spot no matter the result coming into the final round at 22-3 while the Tigers secured a playoff spot last Friday night beating Kalamunda before suffering a heartbreaking home loss to Perry Lakes after being up 23 at half-time.
Willetton enters the round in seventh position at 13-12 and a win in Geraldton on Saturday would avoid any chance of them having to face the Buccs in the quarter finals as well.
Also on Saturday night, the Giants will look to end their season on a winning note up against the Lightning at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium.
The Giants enter the final round in bottom spot at 5-20 following a loss at home last Saturday night by 40 points at the hands of the Redbacks.
But they will look to finish on a far more positive note this week up against a Lakeside team still trying to deal with being without Jack Isenbarger, but who needs to win to secure fifth position and ensure a playoff battle with the Perry Lakes Hawks.
It’s second bottom against second at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre with the Magic hosting the Wolves.
Mandurah has pulled off some surprising wins and strong performances throughout the season but the Magic’s form has dropped away over the last couple of weeks including a 45-point loss on Sunday at home to the Buccs.
But in their last game of the season, they will want to put in a more competitive showing against the Wolfpack and a win would guarantee they avoid the wooden spoon in 2018.
While the Wolves can’t move from second spot at 20-5, the Grand Finalists of the past three years will want to enter another playoff campaign in winning form and full of confidence.
Another out of contention team then hosts another top side on Saturday night with the Eagles playing the Redbacks at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
The Eagles can’t reach playoffs at 9-16 but they are still a dangerous and competitive team while the Redbacks are stuck in third position at 18-7 and will want to ensure they go into the playoffs in good touch coming off a 40-point win over the Giants in Kalgoorlie.
The last game then features two teams out of the playoff hunt with the Slammers hosting the Eastern Suns at Eaton Recreation Centre.
A win for the Slammers can guarantee there’s no way of them being stuck with the wooden spoon while the Eastern Suns will want to get an 11th win for 2018 to highlight their improvement despite missing out on a playoff berth after losing at home to Willetton last Friday night.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 20
Rockingham Flames v Cockburn Cougars – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Goldfields Giants v Lakeside Lightning – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Willetton Tigers – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Stirling Senators v Perry Lakes Hawks – Warwick Stadium 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Joondalup Wolves – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
East Perth Eagles v Perth Redbacks – Morley Sport and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
South West Slammers v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm