THE Perth Redbacks have the chance to be the first team to advance to the semi finals in the Men’s SBL on Friday night away to the Stirling Senators while the Rockingham Flames try to advance on the road on Saturday with the Willetton Tigers and Lakeside Lightning out to stay alive.
The opening weekend of the Men’s SBL Finals for 2018 largely went to script with Game 1 quarter-final wins for the second, third and fourth ranked teams the Joondalup Wolves, Perth Redbacks and Perry Lakes Hawks on their home floors.
Those wins now leave their opponents the Willetton Tigers, Stirling Senators and Lakeside Lightning needing to win their Game 2s at home to force a deciding Game 3.
But the script was thrown right out the window last Saturday night in Rockingham with the eighth-seeded Flames shocking the regular season champion Geraldton Buccaneers setting the stage for quite the fascinating weekend between those two teams.
The Game 2 quarter-final action begins on Friday night at Warwick Stadium with the Senators hosting the Redbacks. A win for Perth and they are through to the semi finals. A Stirling win and Game 3 will be at Belmont Oasis on Saturday night.
Then on Saturday night, the Tigers host the Wolfpack at Willetton Basketball Stadium and the Lightning take on the Hawks at Lakeside Recreation Centre. Wins for Willetton and/or Lakeside and those Game 3s will be held on Sunday at the home of the higher seeds.
However, victories for Joondalup and Perry Lakes and they move straight through to the semi finals.
Then at Active West Stadium, the Buccaneers host the Flames with Geraldton needing to win to force a Game 3 at the same venue the next day. A Rockingham win and they are straight through and will have an enjoyable bus trip home.
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FRIDAY MEN’S SBL RECAP – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1
IN LIMBO ELLIS BACKS SENATORS TO GO ALL THE WAY
There is just the one quarter-final Game 2 on Friday night and that takes place at Warwick Stadium with the Senators hosting the Redbacks.
Game 1 last Friday at Belmont Oasis was an intense, high-scoring, spirited and high-quality contest with the Redbacks ending up winning 114-109 but it could have gone either way.
No more than 11 points separated the two teams all night as they combined for 223 points on the back of 60 assists and just the 24 assists. They ended up shooting a combined 51.3 per cent from the field and 46.3 per cent from three-point territory.
Both teams would have come away liking much of what they did last Friday night given it could have gone either way, but defensively they could potentially feel they could have clamped down a bit more.
But individual match ups like Mo Barrow against Caleb Davis, Shawn Redhage against Cody Ellis, Robert Anshila trying to limit Lee Roberts and Joel Wagner/Jackson Hussey against Corban Wroe deserves this series to go to a third game.
That will take a big effort from the Senators to win Game 2 at home on Friday night against the defending champions. But if they do, Game 3 will then be back at Belmont Oasis on Saturday night.
Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic knows that it’s going to take the best from his team if they are to advance.
“I don’t think they’ll change too much. Obviously I think both teams will go and review a lot of the things defensively. We had some special individual performances who made big shots but the pace of the game was at a really high level,” Lackovic said.
“For us, I don’t mind playing at that pace, I like it, but I felt there were times we just needed to have a bit more precision and poise in certain areas. I’m sure Mike will spend the same amount of time dissecting it and I can’t talk for what he’s going to do or where the changes will be.
“But we understand that’s one game done and there’s nothing less important now than focusing on the next game and being prepared for Friday night at their place, and competing at a really high level again.”
The Game 2 quarter-final action then turns to Saturday night with the Lightning hosting the Hawks at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Perry Lakes continued its hot form winning a 13th straight match last Saturday night winning Game 1 over Lakeside 112-79 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
It was quite the emphatic performance from the Hawks with Ryan Smith scoring 22 points, Ben Purser 20, Lochlan Cummings 20, Jacob Holmen 18, Mitch Clarke 10 and Brian Carlwell eight.
The end result was a 33-point win against a Lightning team lacking that extra piece of firepower in the absence of Jack Isenbarger.
But it is a Lakeside team full of character who did well to finish fifth position at the end of the regular season and with the warrior-like mentality of Jarrad Prue, the outstanding all-round game of Daniel Alexander and good band of emerging players, they can’t be written off.
Bringing to an end the winning streak of the Hawks won’t be easy, but expect the Lightning to put up a much more competitive showing on Saturday night to try force the decider on Sunday back at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Tigers then return to Willetton Basketball Stadium with the task of turning around a 36-point loss to the Wolves last Saturday night in the first ever SBL playoff game held at HBF Arena.
It shaped as being quite the fascinating series in a rematch of the semi finals of 2016 and featuring two teams who again featured in the semis in 2017, but the Wolfpack put in a dominant showing in Game 1.
There were plenty of contributors for the Wolves too with Brian Sullivan scoring 23 points, Jalen Billups 21, Trian Iliadis 16, Rob Huntington 11 and Jordan Wellsteed nine with all 12 players who hit the floor managing to score.
The Tigers just didn’t get enough contributors outside of Jay Bowie with 23 points and Damien Scott 20. For Willetton to turn things around and win at home to force a Game 3 on Sunday back at HBF Arena they need Badou Diagne to stand up inside and avoid foul trouble.
Without him firing, they are no chance but it’s an experienced and well-coached Willetton team who won’t go down without a strong fight.
It’s then on to Active West Stadium with Geraldton hosting Rockingham in what is shaping as the most fascinating of the quarter-final contests.
It looked a mismatch before last Saturday night with Geraldton entering the playoffs from top spot on an eight-game winning run and having won 17 of their last 18 matches. Rockingham limped into the finals in eighth spot with a 12-14 record and having lost their past two matches.
It was a Flames team that just never quite seemed to click or have that cohesion on a regular basis right throughout the regular season, but that all changed last Saturday night on their home floor.
They produced what was likely their best performance of 2018 to beat the Buccs 89-76 thanks to a dominant second half. NBL veterans Greg Hire and Kevin White led the way and import Curtis Washington was good, but it was the local Rockingham brigade who really stood tall.
Justin Beard caught fire for 29 points while Luke Travers delivered 12 and Ryan Godfrey 10 with some handy minutes from Luke Roberts and Jarryd Griffin.
The Flames were able to rattle the Buccs and take them right out of their game in the second half. When they fell behind, they turned inward and too many individuals tried to do too much themselves as they sorely missed captain Mat Wundenberg’s leadership out on the court.
That now sets the tone for a tantalising weekend in Geraldton with the Buccs needing to win on Saturday to force the deciding Game 3 back at home as well on Sunday.
Flames coach Brad Samuelson is proud of the chance his team gave themselves by winning last Saturday but he knows how immense the challenge is of trying to eliminate the Buccaneers on their home floor.
“We are excited by the opportunity that we’ve given ourselves. If we lost that first game at home, the possibilities of us winning twice up there would have been very unlikely but there’s a genuine chance now,” Samuelson said.
“Whether it takes one or two games, we’ll be throwing everything at it and hopefully we can get it on the first crack. If we can get the ball rolling and clicking over the scoreboard, I think on the defensive end we can get the job done.
“The biggest thing will be that their main man, their captain, their leader and the voice, body and physicality should play for them I imagine. He might not give a lot on the stats sheet, but man he does a heck of a lot for that group. I’d be amazed if he didn’t play, he’s a tough man and I expect him out there on the court.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2
GAME 2 (BEST OF 3)
Stirling Senators (6) v Perth Redbacks (3) – Warwick Stadium 8.30pm (Perth leads 1-0)
Geraldton Buccaneers (1) v Rockingham Flames (8) – Active West Stadium 7.30pm (Rockingham leads 1-0)
Lakeside Lightning (5) v Perry Lakes Hawks (4) – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm (Perry Lakes leads 1-0)
Willetton Tigers (7) v Joondalup Wolves (2) – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.00pm (Joondalup leads 1-0)
GAME 3 (if required)
Perth Redbacks (3) v Stirling Senators (6) – Belmont Oasis 8.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks (4) v Lakeside Lightning (5) – Bendat Basketball Centre 12.00pm
Joondalup Wolves (2) v Willetton Tigers (7) – HBF Arena 12.00pm
Geraldton Buccaneers (1) v Rockingham Flames (8) – Active West Stadium 12.00pm