THE Lakeside Lightning and Mandurah Magic have the chance to book their places in the Women’s SBL Grand Final for 2018 with wins on Friday night but the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Perth Redbacks will be desperate to force them to a semi-final Game 3.
The Lightning and Magic both won their respective semi-final Game 1 match ups last Friday night to be now one win away this weekend from setting up what would be a tantalising Grand Final given the semi-final series they played out against one another in 2017.
But the fact is they are only halfway to advancing to next Friday night’s Grand Final at Bendat Basketball Centre and the Eastern Suns and Redbacks won’t be ready to end their seasons on Friday night.
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns will be hosting the Lakeside Lightning in Game 2 of their semi-final series at Ray Owen Sports Centre on Friday night needing to turn around a 51-point loss to force a Game 3 back at Lakeside Recreation Centre on Saturday.
The Mandurah Magic then hit their home floor of Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre attempting to win through to a second straight Grand Final against the Perth Redbacks.
A Redbacks win and Game 3 will be back at Belmont Oasis on Saturday night.
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Both Friday night Game 2 semi-final matches tip-off in the Women’s SBL at 7pm and it’s set to be a packed house at Ray Owen Sports Centre as they attempt to inspire their Eastern Suns team to a bounce back win over the Lightning.
Both teams were missing key players last week with Kalamunda missing Alex Ciabattoni and Jewel Williams from the outset, and then losing Jennie Rintala to a nasty looking ankle injury.
The Lightning were also without two-time MVP Ali Schwagmeyer, but Lakeside put together a 41-2 run either side of half-time last Friday night on their home floor on their way to a 92-41 Game 1 victory.
That means that Lakeside has still lost just once in all of 2018 to be one game away from reaching a first Grand Final in the Women’s SBL since 2014 and then attempting to win a first championship since 2006.
The job is ahead of the Eastern Suns to force a Game 3 but they will be hoping to have all of Williams, Ciabattoni and Rintala to attempt to do so.
They did have a record home crowd for Game 2 in the quarter finals against Willetton which they went on to win and they will be attempting to repeat that performance on Friday to send the series to a Game 3.
Lightning coach Craig Mansfield is expecting a significant challenge from the Suns.
“We’re not counting any chickens and obviously with Ciaba and Jewel Williams back, that’s all their ball-handling and the game dynamic changes completely,” Mansfield said.
“We’re not taking anything for granted and obviously I’d rather be in this position than being a game down in the series, but having been there before the objective is to just focus on what’s ahead of us and not getting ahead of ourselves.
“Obviously our objective is to play in the Grand Final but we talked at the start of the finals that to get through this part of the season we need to get five wins and we’ve got three.
“One other team will get four and a couple other teams will get two or three and will go home unhappy. Our goal is to get there but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The other series will see Game 2 between the Magic and Redbacks take place at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Mandurah had its struggles during the regular season on the back of a Grand Final appearance in 2017 ending up in sixth position, but the Magic turned things up in the quarter finals to beat the third seeded Rockingham Flames in two games.
They continued that momentum by beating the Redbacks by a point last Friday at Belmont Oasis to be a win away from consecutive Grand Final appearances with the Magic still chasing the club’s first ever championship.
The Redbacks are trying to win their way to a first Grand Final since 2001 as well and now need to overcome a hostile environment in Mandurah on Friday night to force the series back to Belmont Oasis on Friday night.
One Redbacks player with championship experience from the South West Slammers in 2012 is Bianca Donovan and she’s certainly not ready to think about her season ending yet.
“I haven’t really thought that this could be our last training session or that these could be our last two nights of our season because we are preparing to be here next week again to prepare for a Grand Final,” Donovan said.
“But it’s taken a lot of work and it’s a long season for it to come down to us needing to win twice this weekend to stay alive. But this is why you play and if our season did end this weekend it would be very disappointing and I don’t think anyone is preparing for that.
“Double-headers are always exciting so hopefully we play two games this weekend and it would be really good for us to finish off with another game at home on Saturday night.
“We were always preparing for a three-game series against Mandurah because of how tough they are. Losing Game 1 wasn’t ideal but hopefully now we can bounce back.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – SEMI FINALS WEEK 2
GAME 2 (Best of 3)
Kalamunda Eastern Suns (5) v Lakeside Lightning (1) – Ray Owen Sports Centre 7.00pm (Lakeside leads 1-0)
Mandurah Magic (6) v Perth Redbacks (2) – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.00pm (Mandurah leads 1-0)
SATURDAY (if required)
Lakeside Lightning (1) v Kalamunda Eastern Suns (5) – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Perth Redbacks (2) v Mandurah Magic (6) – Belmont Oasis 7.00pm