THE Women’s SBL semi finals get underway this Friday night with both Game 1’s taking place as the Lakeside Lightning host the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, and the Perth Redbacks take on the Mandurah Magic.
Both Women’s SBL quarter finals begin on Friday night as regular season champion Lightning take on the emerging Suns, while the big improvers of 2018 the Redbacks take on last year’s Grand Finalists in the Magic.
The Lightning play the Eastern Suns in Game 1 at Lakeside Recreation Centre as Lakeside looks to take another step towards the Grand Final having lost just once in 2018 to date against a Kalamunda team that will have nothing to lose.
The Redbacks host the Magic at Belmont Oasis with Perth looking to continue its momentum and attempt to reach a first Grand Final since 2001 while Mandurah has the experience of reaching last year’s decider to call upon.
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Both Women’s SBL semi-final series’ look set to be fascinating affairs starting with Lakeside taking on Kalamunda.
The Lightning had a dominant regular season winning 21 of 22 games including entering the playoffs on a 13-game winning run.
They did have to fight hard to overcome the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks in the quarter finals, but did win both games 81-75 and 71-68 to win through to a second straight semi-final appearance.
The Lightning have been building since Craig Mansfield took over as coach, reaching the quarter finals in 2016, semi finals in 2017 and now they are back playing for a Grand Final berth in 2018.
Mansfield was also a long-time coach at the Eastern Suns adding extra intrigue to the contest, including leading them to their only Grand Final appearance in 2013. Mel Moyle and Ali Schwagmeyer are also former Kalamunda players against their former team.
After missing the playoffs the past two years, Kalamunda put together a tremendous 2018 season on the back of the performances of Jennie Rintala and Alex Ciabattoni, and a young local contingent led by Jewel Williams, Jorjah Smith, Jessie Edwards, Rebecca Motroni, Hannah King and Marlee Bushe-Jones.
The Suns narrowly missed fifth position but it mattered little as they beat the Willetton Tigers in two games anyway in the quarter finals to set up their crack at the Lightning in the semi finals.
Game 1 will be at Lakeside Recreation Centre on Friday night with Eastern Suns coach Tom Knowles looking forward to the challenge.
“Willetton beat us both games in the regular season as we had two very bad games against Lakeside,” Knowles said.
“They are certainly tough, I’m not going to take anything away from them, and they have a very deep starting five. They all play really well. There’s absolutely no doubt they are going to be tough but anything’s possible in the finals arena.
“They’ll have a big crowd on Friday so I’m sure they’ll be pumped up to get the win and it’s definitely a tough road. But the girls are definitely up for the challenge and are keen to go out and fight as hard as they can, and see where we can get to.
“It is quite a bizarre situation and we do play pretty similar styles as well, and we actually match up reasonably well funnily enough. We both play a reasonably up-tempo style of game and it’s going to be interesting. It’s always a fun game to watch I’m told when we play Lakeside so hopefully people will enjoy watching the game at least on Friday.”
The other series gets underway at Belmont Oasis on Friday night with the Redbacks taking on the Magic.
It is a new-look Redbacks team in 2018 under new coach Charles Nix along with the arrivals of Kayla Steindl (nee Standish), Mikayla Pirini and Makailah Dyer.
Then with the core group of Jess Jakens, Bianca Donovan, Lori Ashworth, Alix Hayward and company giving them a strong group that finished the regular season in second position at 17-5.
They then proved far too good in the quarter finals for the Stirling Senators winning in two games by 25 and 21 points respectively to move straight into the semi finals.
Mandurah was coming off a tremendous 2017 season that ended in a Grand Final loss to Perry Lakes. The Magic then kept most of the group together, swapping Anita Brown for Nici Gilday, and adding another import in the form of Regina Palusna.
But things kept going wrong for the Magic including a season-ending injury to Carly Boag meaning they were locked in a battle just to make the finals altogether.
Mandurah did get there, though, ending up in sixth spot at 11-11 before then delivering two tremendous quarter-final performances to beat the third-seeded Rockingham Flames to be back into the semi finals.
The Magic will be hoping to get closer to full strength against the Redbacks too with Rachel Halleen and Bree Klasztorny fighting to be fit.
Magic coach Randy Miegel is looking forward to the challenge of trying to win Game 1 on the road because he knows what sort of atmosphere will be awaiting them back home in Mandurah next Friday for Game 2.
“It’s really important to go back to Mandurah next week having won the first game,” Miegel said.
“The stadium at Mandurah was packed for Game 2 against Rockingham and I think that was one of the determining factors in our win. But we haven’t spoken about that, we’re just focused on how we are going to combat the Redbacks for Game 1.
“I think the excitement levels for the Redbacks to be in this position will carry them a long way and they’ve got a very even squad. Steindl is obviously outstanding but they go right down to No. 8 at an even level and Charles keeps feeding them through. I expect a physical-type game from them.
“They’ve beaten us both times but the thing we need to concentrate on is to get a good start. In those first two games they’ve got us in the first quarter so we’ll be concentrating on starting well and making sure we stay in the game for a long way.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – SEMI FINALS WEEK 1
GAME 1 (Best of 3)
Lakeside Lightning (1) v Kalamunda Eastern Suns (5) – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Perth Redbacks (2) v Mandurah Magic (6) – Belmont Oasis 7.00pm