ROUND 13 in the Men’s SBL is full of potentially season-defining match ups starting on Friday night with the Lakeside Lightning taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks, and then the regional Saturday night battles with Geraldton hosting Warwick and Goldfields playing host to Joondalup.
Those are just three of a whole host of tantalising match ups as the Men’s SBL season heats up in the race to the finals for 2019.
There are three matches to get things started with on Friday night with the Perth Redbacks taking on the East Perth Eagles at Belmont Oasis.
The Lakeside Lightning then host the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final series at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
And finally on Friday night, the Rockingham Flames are at home to the Mandurah Magic at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
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A huge evening of basketball on Saturday night then gets underway with the game tipping off at 7pm between the Willetton Tigers and Cockburn Cougars at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The regional action then sees the Geraldton Buccaneers take on the Warwick Senators at Active West Stadium in a game that could be a preview of things to come once we get to the playoffs at some point.
The Goldfields Giants will also be looking to bounce back from two road losses last weekend when hosting the league-leading Joondalup Wolves at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium.
The other Saturday night matches see the Perry Lakes Hawks host the South West Slammers at Bendat Basketball Centre with Slammers point guard and former Hawk Michael Lay celebrating his 200th appearance in the SBL.
The Mandurah Magic are also back in action against the Lakeside Lightning at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre while the Kalamunda Eastern Suns also host the Rockingham Flames at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Starting on Friday night, the Redbacks host the Eagles at Belmont Oasis with Perth needing to win to hold onto their playoff spot and East Perth needing a win also to keep their slim hopes alive.
The two coaches will know each well too with new Eagles coach Colin Driscoll having worked with Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic at the Redbacks together when they won the championship in 2017.
The Redbacks are now without import Jourdan DeMuynck but should have the services of 2017 Grand Final MVP Lee Roberts for the first time in 2019 to strengthen their front court with Marshall Nelson on fire in the back court.
The Eagles have lost their past four games but have had moments of competitiveness and will be looking to string that together for longer on Friday night.
A rematch of a tremendous quarter-final series from last year then takes place at the Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lightning hosting the Hawks.
Perry Lakes went on to win the championship after beating Lakeside in three games of that series, but both teams are significantly different now.
Lakeside has added Michael Vigor, Kyle Armour and Jobi Wall, and regained Jack Isenbarger, while Perry Lakes has added Shawn Redhage, Clint Steindl and Kyle Sovine.
The Lightning come into the game in fourth position at 10-4 and the Hawks are sixth at 9-6 which says it all about the importance of the contest as they both fight over a top four position.
The last game on Friday night pits the Flames against the Magic in Mandurah.
Rockingham should be at full strength with Greg Hire, Luke Travers, Brad Robbins and company all expected to be available for one of the rare times this season as the Flames attempt to bounce back from a loss to Willetton.
Mandurah’s 4-10 record might be too imposing but with the Magic having Shaun Stewart, Marvin Smith and Travis Durnin all in form, they are a team that can’t be sneezed at.
Saturday night gets underway with the Tigers hosting the Cougars at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Tigers did lose on Sunday to the Buccaneers but are still in their best form of the season having won three games prior to that and now a win on Saturday night keeps them in the playoff hunt.
The Cougars are desperate to snap an eight-game losing run that has seen them slip to a 3-12 record.
Geraldton then features what has all the hallmarks of one of the games of the season when the Buccaneers host the Senators.
The Buccs come into the game in third position at 11-4 and with new import DeAngelo Isby leading them to good road wins last weekend against the Tigers and Cougars.
With Brayden Inger also expected back, it’s the first time the full Buccaneers team would have played together as they host the second placed Senators.
Warwick sits second at 12-3 and will be hoping to have Ash Litterick and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk for the trip after having to win on Sunday at home to the Giants without the pair.
The other regional fixture should be a beauty too with the Giants hosting the Wolves in Kalgoorlie.
The Giants did lose both games on the road last weekend to the Lightning and Senators, but those are two teams inside the top four so it’s far from time for concern for coach Wayne Creek.
With imports Jay Bowie and Patrick Burke, hugely talented pair David Humphries and Mayo Malek, and then point guards Daniel Forlano and Brandon Holloway running the ship, they have a strong unit as they look to consolidate their playoff position.
It’s a big ask even at home to the Wolfpack, though, who are coming off a 60-point hammering of the Slammers to improve to 13-3 on the season and having won five straight.
The Wolves have lost just once on the road so far this season too and will be hoping Earnest Ross is right for the trip after falling hard against the Slammers with Trian Iliadis a chance to return.
Wolfpack coach Ben Ettridge knows that the Giants are a dangerous outfit and that the trip to Kalgoorlie is far from an easy one to navigate no matter how well your team is rolling.
“They’ve got a phenomenal group together. They’ve got it right this time around by putting some pieces together and I love their imports. Jay Bowie we know and then Pat Burke has been great,” Ettridge said.
“Then playing them up there probably adds 10 to 15 points to what they are doing, but we’ll go in there knowing it’s going to be a fight from the start, and that we’ll have to do everything we can to come away with the result we want.
“The road trip is tough to be honest. The Geraldton trip isn’t too bad, it’s four and-a-half hours and you get to have a nice stop in Jurien Bay and you get a nice lunch and all that. But Kalgoorlie is that bit further that makes it a grind and it knocks you around.
“It’s like a long haul flight but again it tests your resilience and you all have to stick together as a group, and work together. We go up with our D1 boys as well so it’s a big group and you get put in a situation that you’re not normally in with the close confines like the Big Brother house. That brings out a gamut of emotions and the trip back is usually pretty quiet as well.”
Then also on Saturday night, Perry Lakes hosts the Slammers at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Hawks will have already played Lakeside on Friday night while the Slammers will be desperate just to be more competitive than they were in losing to the Wolves by 60 points last Saturday night.
Added motivation should be the 200th game of captain and point guard Michael Lay which just happens to come against his former team on his old home floor.
Then also on Saturday night, the Magic host the Lightning in Mandurah with both teams coming off playing on Friday evening as well.
The last match up of the round sees the Eastern Suns host the Flames at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Rockingham will have already played Mandurah on Friday while Kalamunda will be fresh and looking to get a big win to stay right in the playoff hunt which is where they belong with the talent they possess.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 13
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v CMTG East Perth Eagles – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Mandurah Magic – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Niels Hansen Basketball Centre 7.30pm
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks v Print Sync South West Slammers – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Lakeside Lightning – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm