THE Lakeside Lightning, Cockburn Cougars, Warwick Senators, Willetton Tigers, Geraldton Buccaneers and Goldfields Giants all have double-headers in Round 12 of the Men’s SBL that will conclude with the All-Star Game on Monday.
With things so tight as the battle for playoff positions now heats up as we enter the second half of the 2019 Men’s SBL season, the Round 12 action spread across Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon could provide plenty of answers as to who are genuine contenders.
Round 12 in the Men’s SBL begins on Friday night and Perth Redbacks captain Joel Wagner will celebrate his 350th game up against championship-winning teammate Michael Vigor, long-time rival Kyle Armour and the Lakeside Lightning at Belmont Oasis.
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The Kalamunda Eastern Suns also take on the Perry Lakes Hawks on Friday night at Ray Owen Sports Centre with the Mandurah Magic hosting the Cockburn Cougars at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, and the East Perth Eagles hosting the Warwick Senators at Herb Graham Recreation Centre.
The other Friday night fixture should also be a fascinating one with the Rockingham Flames playing the Willetton Tigers at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
There are then three matches in the Men’s SBL on Saturday night with the Willetton Tigers playing the Geraldton Buccaneers, the Lakeside Lightning returning home for the first time in a month to play the Goldfields Giants, and the Joondalup Wolves hosting the South West Slammers.
The action continues on Sunday at midday with two more matches that sees the Cockburn Cougars host the Geraldton Buccaneers, and the Warwick Senators play the Goldfields Giants.
It’s not done there, with the WA Day long weekend then featuring the All-Star Game on Monday afternoon at Bendat Basketball Centre with the Australian and World teams locking horns.
Friday night sees a tantalising contest between the Redbacks and Lightning at Belmont Oasis.
The Redbacks come into the game clinging to eighth spot at 7-8 following a loss to the Wolves last Friday night while the Lightning also lost last up to the Senators, but they are looking to build momentum with Michael Vigor and Jarrad Prue together inside, and Jack Isenbarger warming up.
The Lightning come into the game still in fifth position at 8-4 so Friday’s contest is a significant one for both.
It will also be the 350th game for Redbacks captain Joel Wagner and it’s perhaps fitting against Lakeside and Michael Vigor who was a teammate with for more than 200 games with the Redbacks, including in the 2017 championship.
Redbacks captain and milestone man Wagner is looking forward to the occasion and to share it up against Vigor and Lighting point guard Kyle Armour.
“To be honest I was thinking about it and I’m really glad that Kyle and Mike will be there even though I’ll be playing against them. They are both close mates of mine and I’ve competed with Kyle countless times now, and I always enjoy going to battle with him. It should be a great night,” Wagner said.
“It’s going to be really strange playing against him (Vigor), no doubt about it. Mike and I would always go at it at training if we were on opposition teams so I wouldn’t expect anything different now on Friday night with no love lost.
“But we’ll always be mates, Mike is one of my best mates and for whatever reason he decided to go over Lakeside and I’ll back that 100 per cent. I’m just happy to see him out on the court and enjoying his basketball.”
Then also on Friday night, the Eastern Suns host the Hawks at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
It’s another significant game for both teams with Kalamunda looking to knock off the defending champs to improve on their 7-8 record to try and break into the top eight.
Meanwhile, Perry Lakes will still be without Perth Wildcats sharpshooter Clint Steindl but broke its three-game losing slide since the arrival of Shawn Redhage last week against Cockburn and will be looking to build on their 8-6 record.
Mandurah and Cockburn are two teams near the foot of the table in the Men’s SBL but who have more talent than their respective 3-10 records suggest.
The Magic put in a solid showing in Kalgoorlie against the Giants last week and with a strong trio of stars Marvin Smith, Shaun Stewart and Travis Durnin all in form, they will be hoping for a good showing at home against the Cougars.
Cockburn has now lost six straight and has had to play their last three games without superstar captain Gavin Field. Whether he is there or not on Friday, they will be looking to put together a four-quarter effort after showing good signs for a half last week against Perry Lakes.
Another interesting Friday night clash takes place at Herb Graham Recreation Centre with the Eagles hosting the Senators.
East Perth is now playing under Colin Driscoll following Adam Forde’s departure for the Sydney Kings in the NBL and the Eagles found the going tough last week in losses to Rockingham and Geraldton.
But the Eagles aren’t out of the playoff hunt at 5-10 and will enhance those prospects with an upset of the Senators on Friday night.
Warwick’s nine-game winning run ended last Saturday at the hands of Willetton with the Senators now looking to bounce back on Friday to attempt to reclaim top spot.
East Perth coach Driscoll knows how tough a challenge Warwick presents.
“In my humble opinion, I think the Senators are the team to beat right now. If you have a look at the calibre of their whole team, they are class,” Driscoll said.
“They’ve got depth and people will say their weakness is with the ball handlers but I’m not so sure. They have very capable people bringing the rock up and that will be our area that we’ll try to target, but we are going to try and target that with everyone as well.”
The last game on Friday night features the Flames hosting the Tigers in Rockingham.
The Flames should welcome back Greg Hire to a team that has won three straight including beating East Perth by 17 points with Brad Robbins and Luke Travers both back in the line-up.
Rockingham now comes into Round 12 in third spot at 10-4 as they take on a Willetton coming off the high of beating the Senators last Saturday night in their best performance of the season.
If Willetton backs that up in Rockingham, they are right back in the playoff hunt and will send quite the message.
Then on Saturday night, Willetton has a quick turnaround to hosting the Buccaneers at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Buccs are on their second straight road trip double-header having lost to the Wolves by three points last Saturday night and beating the Eagles by 20 on Sunday without new import DeAngelo Isby and Brayden Inger.
Inger won’t make the trip this weekend but Isby will be playing as coach Dayle Joseph looks for Geraldton to deal the best they can with two straight road trips.
“Willetton had a good win last week against Warwick and I think they are going to be one of those teams on the up in the second half of the year too as they mix together,” Joseph said.
“And Cockburn have shown that when they have their full team together that they are tough. And when we are on the road, every game is tough to us and we say it’s a challenging weekend every time we travel because it is. This one will be no different.”
Lakeside is another team backing up from Friday night where the Lightning will have played the Redbacks before then hosting the Giants at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
It will be Lakeside’s first home game since beating Rockingham back on April 26 but the Giants will look to bring their impressive form on the road.
The Lightning and Giants did play out a classic just two weeks ago in Kalgoorlie with Lakeside winning by a point. But outside of that, Goldfields has won four of its past five matches to come to Perth in Round 12 at 9-5 in sixth spot.
The other Saturday night contest features the top-of-the-table Wolves hosting the Slammers in the only game of the weekend for both teams.
The Wolfpack made it four straight wins beating the Redbacks last Friday and the Buccs last Saturday in two hard-fought and impressive performances to improve to 12-3 on the season.
They now host a Slammers team that does feature new import centre Terrell Carter, but has gone winless in 13 games so far in 2019 and will do well to make it a competitive contest on Saturday night.
The round then continues on Sunday at Warwick Stadium with the Senators taking on the Giants. Warwick will have played East Perth on Friday before sitting out Saturday night while Goldfields will be fresh off taking on Lakeside on Saturday.
The other Sunday contest features the Cougars hosting the Buccaneers from midday at Wally Hagan Stadium.
The Men’s All-Star Game will then take place at Bendat Basketball Centre on Monday from 2pm between an Australian and World team.
The starters for the Australian team will be Ryan Godfrey, Dave Humphries, Gavin Field, Louis Timms and Greg Hire.
And the bench will consist of Marshall Nelson, Caleb Davis, Kyle Armour, Jarrad Prue, Damien Scott, Cody Ellis and Ryan Smith.
The starters for the World team will be Kevin Davis, Patrick Burke, Josh Braun, Caleb White and Marcus Alipate.
The World team’s bench will feature Earnest Ross, Jourdan DeMuynck, Cameron Williams, Jobi Wall, Justin King, Tyler Livingston and Shaun Stewart.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 12
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Lakeside Lightning – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Mandurah Magic v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.30pm
CMTG East Perth Eagles v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Herb Graham Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Willetton Tigers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Silver Lake Resources Goldfields Giants – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Print Sync South West Slammers – HBF Arena 8.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Silver Lake Resources Goldfields Giants – Warwick Stadium 12.00pm
Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Wally Hagan Stadium 12.00pm
MONDAY – ALL-STAR GAME
Australian All-Stars v World All-Stars – Bendat Basketball Centre 2.00pm