THE 2018 Finals in the Women’s SBL begins this weekend with the opening matches in the best of three-game quarter final match ups with the higher ranked teams playing host to those who finished in the bottom half of the top eight.
It was quite the exciting and eventful regular season in the Women’s SBL with it going right down to the wire to determine who made the playoffs.
In the end, the South West Slammers were the team who just missed out with the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks holding on to eighth position despite a loss to the Stirling Senators last Saturday night.
That meant that the Cockburn Cougars, Joondalup Wolves and East Perth Eagles were joined by the Slammers as the four teams who didn’t make it into the playoffs for 2018.
Now there will be four fascinating quarter-final match ups beginning this Friday night with the regular season champion Lakeside Lightning hosting the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks at Lakeside Recreation Centre. Jess van Schie will be celebrating her 300th game with Lakeside.
The other Friday night encounter features the Perth Redbacks against the Stirling Senators at Belmont Oasis.
The other two Game 1 quarter-final match ups take place on Saturday night with the Rockingham Flames playing the Mandurah Magic at Mike Barnett Sports Complex and the Willetton Tigers taking on the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Women’s SBL playoffs for 2018 gets underway on Friday night at Belmont Oasis with the Redbacks hosting the Senators.
It is a vastly new-look Redbacks in 2018 with a new coach Charles Nix and then the arrival of Kayla Standish, Mikayla Pirini and Makailah Dyer have made the world of difference to a core group led by Jess Jakens, Bianca Donovan, Lori Ashworth and Alex Hayward.
The result was a tremendous regular season where they finished in second position with a 17-5 record with a strong and deep group trying to give the Redbacks a crack at a first Women’s championship since 2000.
Their first round opponents are the Senators who have qualified for the playoffs for a second straight season in Glenn Clarke’s third year in charge as coach.
They did well to finish in fourth position last year before falling to the Willetton Tigers in Game 3 on their home floor, and the Senators again qualified for the finals in 2018 with a 10-12 record.
They cemented their playoff berth with a win at home to the Hawks last Saturday night with import guard Jasmine Martin in tremendous form.
For them to now have a chance up against the Redbacks, Amber Land will need to match the performance of Standish while import Janee Johnson will need to stand tall with good contributions from veterans Nicole Jorre De St Jorre and Jodee Sontay, and the emerging Hannah and Rebekah Throns.
The teams met twice during the regular season with the Redbacks winning the first meeting 82-55 at Belmont Oasis in Round 8 and then the return encounter 82-60 at Warwick Stadium three weeks later.
The other Friday night quarter-final Game 1 sees the minor premier Lightning facing the defending champion Lady Hawks at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
It should be quite the fascinating match up and certainly no usual first round match up for a team finishing first.
Lakeside had a dominant regular season winning 21 of 22 matches including the last 13 in-a-row following their only defeat at the hands of the Perth Redbacks.
Their reward for a dominant season is to take on the defending champions in the first round.
Perry Lakes made a horror start to their title defence without Nat Burton slipping to 1-9 before starting to get on a roll. The Hawks ended up winning eight of their next 11 matches before losing their past two games.
They still managed to hold on to eighth position to give themselves a chance of keeping their championship defence alive. And a team featuring Nat Burton and Toni Edmondson can never be taken lightly if they get good support from Kate Anthony, Gabby O’Sullivan, Bella Green, Emily Burton, Annika Renkema and company.
But it’s a Lakeside team that deserves to enter the playoffs as championship favourites.
The Lightning have kept the majority of their group together led by imports Sydnee Fipps and Ali Schwagmeyer along with key contributors Ash Grant, Sam Roscoe, Courtney Byrnes and 300-gamer Jess van Schie who will reach the milestone in Friday night’s Game 1.
Last year, Lakeside finished the regular season in third position before losing in three games of the semi finals to the Mandurah Magic. They have kept that core together, built on it with the additions of Byrnes and Mel Moyle, and now get ready for the Hawks in the quarter finals.
Lakeside won the first meeting with Perry Lakes of the season back in Round 2 by 18 points before claiming a 71-70 thriller in Round 8.
Then on Saturday night, Game 1 between the Flames and Magic takes place at Mike Barnett Sports Complex in what should be a fascinating series between the two local rivals.
Rockingham has quickly rebounded in 2018 from a rebuilding year in 2017 and coach Ryan Petrik has done a tremendous job to make sure that they weren’t down for too long.
The Flames stayed afloat early in the season with Darcee Garbin returning while they awaited the arrival of imports Taneisha Harrison and D’Lesha Lloyd.
Then since their arrival combined with Maddie Allen as the force inside, Rockingham has done well to finish the regular season in third position with a 16-6 record to earn home court advantage for the quarter finals.
Mandurah will now be their first round opponents coming off a Grand Final appearance in 2017, but it’s been a season of what could have been for the Magic.
Injuries have hindered what they hoped to do especially a season-ending knee injury to Carly Boag because a front court featuring Boag, new import Regina Palusna and Bree Klasztorny sure would have been imposing.
But there have also been injuries to Bree Klasztorny and Casey Mihovilovich along the way, but right now Mihovilovich has returned and Emma Klasztorny is in some of the best form of her career.
Combined with MVP favourite Anita Brown and it’s still a Magic team that can’t be taken lightly even though it’s not quite the line-up coach Randy Miegel hoped he would have by this time of the season.
Mandurah won the first meeting between the two this season 97-73 back in Round 3 while the Flames responded with a 75-63 win in Round 14 on their home floor.
The last Game 1 quarter-final match takes place on Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium between the Tigers and Eastern Suns.
Willetton and Kalamunda have known for some time they would be playing one another now but it was just home court advantage that needed to be decided, and the Tigers secured that two weeks ago with a win at Kalamunda.
The Tigers ended up finishing the regular season in fourth position with a 14-8 and they come into the playoffs on a three-game winning run. The Eastern Suns also enter on the same 14-8 record but Willetton claimed the series split with two 10-point victories.
Willetton is the team with the playoff experience having won the 2016 championship and reached the semi finals last year but this is a very different team without the likes of Kate Malpass and Zoe Harper.
Kalamunda might not have the playoff experience together, but with Jennie Rintala and Alex Ciabattoni leading the way for a young group, they will like their chances of delivering a strong playoff campaign.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1
GAME 1 (BEST OF 3)
Perth Redbacks (2) v Stirling Senators (7) – Belmont Oasis 6.30pm
Lakeside Lightning (1) v Perry Lakes Hawks (8) – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Rockingham Flames (3) v Mandurah Magic (6) – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.00pm
Willetton Tigers (4) v Kalamunda Eastern Suns (5) – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm