THE Joondalup Wolves are one win from a sixth Men’s SBL Grand Final in eight years while the Rockingham Flames are in striking distance of their first ever but the Stirling Senators and Perry Lakes Hawks won’t be handing them anything.
Both Men’s SBL semi-final series’ got underway last Saturday night with the Wolfpack beating the Senators 87-78 at HBF Arena and the Flames defeating the Hawks 92-73 at Bendat Basketball Centre to set up must-win Game 2’s now for Stirling and Perry Lakes.
They will each take place from 7pm on Friday night with the Stirling Senators hosting the Joondalup Wolves at Warwick Stadium. A win for Stirling and they force a Game 3 back at HBF Arena on Saturday night.
The Rockingham Flames return home to Mike Barnett Sports Complex attempting to qualify for a first ever Grand Final by taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks.
A Hawks victory and Game 3 will be back at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night.
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SATURDAY MEN’S SBL RECAP – SEMI FINALS WEEK 1
MEN’S SBL PREVIEW – SEMI FINALS WEEK 1
The Wolves and Senators are local rivals in the northern corridor and it’s sure to be a fascinating night on Friday at Warwick Stadium with Stirling trying to push the series to a third game.
Joondalup prevailed in Game 1 at HBF Arena in front of a big crowd with a terrific atmosphere leading virtually all night to win by nine points on the back of 25 points from Brian Sullivan, 21 from Rob Huntington and 11 from Jalen Billups.
Trian Iliadis did a superb defensive job on Justin King while Robert Anshila stepped up for the Senators to top-score with 20 points.
If that contest was anything to go by, then Game 2 should be an intriguing contest in front of what is sure to be another large and rowdy crowd at Warwick Stadium.
But the Wolves are in the box seat to win their way through to a fourth successive Grand Final and a sixth since 2010. It’s a different story for Stirling who haven’t reached a Grand Final since 1990.
Star Wolves point guard Brian Sullivan was tremendous in Game 1 and he’s looking forward to the challenge of trying to close out the series in enemy territory.
“They will be ready to go. They seem like a really well-coached and focused and disciplined team with a good game plan, but also an emotionally tough and resilient team. We are expecting them to be ready to go from the get go,” Sullivan said.
“Obviously we’ve put ourselves in a good situation but I think what put us here is taking it one game at a time.
“We are where we want to be but we’re not so much thinking about the Grand Final as much as knowing we have a tough opponent on Friday night that we have to be as ready as possible for ahead of those 40 minutes.”
The other series is every bit as fascinating with the eighth-seeded Flames still unbeaten in the playoffs as they return home to host the Hawks at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
It’s sure to be big crowd in Rockingham as they try to cheer their team into what would be a first ever Men’s Grand Final in the SBL.
The Flames have great momentum behind them having knocked out the regular season champion Geraldton Buccaneers in the quarter finals in two games.
They then controlled the game for large parts last Saturday night to beat Perry Lakes by 19 points at Bendat Basketball Centre to be one win from the Grand Final.
With the experience of Greg Hire, Kevin White and Ryan Godfrey, and brashness of youth with the likes of Luke Travers and Justin Beard, and it’s a Rockingham team full of self-belief despite a rollercoaster regular season.
Perry Lakes entered the playoffs with a 12-game winning run before beating the Lakeside Lightning in three games in the quarter finals.
They started well enough last Saturday night too before losing reigning league MVP Jacob Holmen to a devastating knee injury that looks set to end his career.
The Hawks never really recovered but they have now had a week to prepare for life without Holmen and will be desperate to force the series to a Game 3 now and try to win their way into a Grand Final on their home floor.
Hawks coach Matt Parsons is expecting a hostile atmosphere in Rockingham on Friday night but is looking forward to it.
“I think it’s just great for the SBL that the fans are turning up in numbers at the moment. It just goes to show that the brand and competitiveness that is out there at the moment, and the excitement and skill that is there is putting bums on seats,” Parsons said.
“Rockingham has done a really good job not only to market themselves to their fans but to their sponsors as well, and Perry Lakes has as well. We even opened up the back section for the first time last week for Game 1 since I’ve been at the club.
“Momentum is there with the league and teams are doing a really good job of marketing it, but it’s a semi-final and you expect to play in front of a hostile crowd on the road at this stage, and you are going to play in front of big crowds.
“You may as well get used to it and we accept the challenge that it will be fairly one-sided in Rockingham but it usually is anytime you go down there. We look forward to it. It’s a great challenge and will be a great experience for our group.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – SEMI FINALS WEEK 2
GAME 2 (Best of 3)
Stirling Senators (6) v Joondalup Wolves (2) – Warwick Stadium 7.00pm (Joondalup leads 1-0)
Rockingham Flames (8) v Perry Lakes Hawks (4) – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 7.00pm (Rockingham leads 1-0)
GAME 3 (if required)
Joondalup Wolves (2) v Stirling Senators (6) – HBF Arena 7.00pm
Perry Lakes Hawks (4) v Rockingham Flames (8) – Bendat Basketball Centre 7.00pm