ROUND 14 in the Men’s SBL is littered with tantalising and crucial match ups including the Perth Redbacks and Willetton Tigers fighting over eighth spot on Friday and then the Goldfields Giants hosting the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks on Saturday night.
With only one game separating the teams from second to sixth on the Men’s SBL table and then just two games between those from seventh to 10th, every game is taking on extra significance starting in Round 14 of the season this weekend.
It gets underway with three matches on Friday night with the Lakeside Lightning playing the Cockburn Cougars, the South West Slammers hosting the Mandurah Magic, and the Perth Redbacks playing the Willetton Tigers.
There are then six matches on a massive Saturday night in the Men’s SBL starting with the two earlier starting fixtures with the Mandurah Magic playing the Joondalup Wolves, and the Cockburn Cougars hosting the Perth Redbacks.
There are two matches then in the regional centres with the Geraldton Buccaneers attempting to consolidate second position hosting the East Perth Eagles while in Kambalda for the town’s annual SBL game, the Goldfields Giants host the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks.
The last two games of the round then see the Rockingham Flames face the South West Slammers, and the Warwick Senators play host to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
Round 14 in the Men’s SBL begins on Friday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lightning hosting the Cougars.
Lakeside is coming off a win last Saturday night over Mandurah after losing to Perry Lakes on Friday which has the Lightning in fifth position entering the round with an 11-5 record.
A win on Friday and they stay in touch with the top four but a loss and they start to drop back to the pack to fight for a spot in the top eight.
The Cougars might be on a nine-game losing streak but their last victory did come against the Lightning so they will be looking to replicate that performance to avoid a 10th consecutive defeat.
Then also on Friday night, the Slammers are back home at Eaton Recreation Centre to host the Magic.
Mandurah struggled last Saturday night in the absence of Shaun Stewart to lose to Lakeside and if the dynamic import guard is missing again for the trip south on Friday, the chance might be there for the Slammers to break through for their first win of 2019.
South West did produce a much more competitive performance last Saturday night against Perry Lakes with Terrell Carter and Michael Lay leading the way with support from Cory Richardson, Mitch Keller and Tyler Livingston.
Slammers captain and 200-gamer Michael Lay hopes his team can build on that improved performance last Saturday and would love that elusive first win to come their way as a reward.
“The last couple of weeks since Terrell has been here, our intensity at training has really picked up and then that led to a more competitive performance against Perry Lakes,” Lay said.
“We are just taking it day by day right now, and are just trying to improve the amount of time of time that we play good ball, we’re trying to lengthen that out.
“We still get sucked into making mental mistakes at times because we’re so young, but absolutely every night that we play we see it as an opportunity to try and get a win. We’ll focus in against Mandurah on Friday and see what we can do.”
The third game on Friday night could well be the most crucial and it will take place at Belmont Oasis between the Redbacks and Tigers.
There’s certainly no love lost between the two teams with quite the rivalry having built up including a clash in the semi finals of 2017 where the Redbacks beat the minor premier Tigers to advance to the Grand Final and ultimately win the championship.
Now this year, Mo Barrow and Jackson Hussey have joined Willetton having played at Perth last year and this will be their first chance to play back at Belmont Oasis as visiting players.
But more importantly is how important a game it is for both teams in the context of the season.
The Redbacks currently sit in eighth position at 8-9 and the Tigers are ninth at 8-10 so that says it all about what it means for both teams as they chase a finals appearance in 2019.
There’s every chance both teams will have a new face too with the Redbacks a chance to welcome back 2017 Grand Final MVP Lee Roberts while the Tigers have signed exciting swingman Matthew Adekponya to replace injured import Chris Galbreath.
Attention then turns to Saturday evening and the first of the earlier starting games takes place at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars hosting the Redbacks.
Both teams will be coming off playing the previous night with Cockburn having taken on Lakeside while the Redbacks will have hosted the Tigers.
The Magic are then back to Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre as well on Saturday night to host the league-leading Wolfpack.
It’s a big task for the Magic especially if Shaun Stewart remains sidelined with the Wolfpack heading to Mandurah in outstanding form with a six-game winning run fresh off a win in Kalgoorlie to currently sit two games clear on top of the standings.
Then at Kambalda Recreation Centre in the Giants’ annual home game in the town and at the terrific and relatively new venue, it’s a massive game between Goldfields and the defending champion Perry Lakes.
It’s a huge game and potentially a season-defining one for both teams with the Giants have now lost three straight games but they have all been against top teams in the Lightning, Senators and Wolves.
They are now 9-8 in seventh spot but another defeat on Saturday night and going 9-9 leaves them with work to do to still reach the playoffs in 2019.
Then there’s the Hawks who currently sit sixth at 11-6 and are on a four-game winning streak with a win on Saturday night keeping them in touch with the top four in what will double as the 250th game in the SBL of championship-winning co-captain Rob Cassir.
Then at Geraldton’s Active West Stadium, the Buccaneers look to continue their impressive form since the addition of DeAngelo Isby as they host the Eagles.
The Buccs have now won four straight and are in second position at 12-4 but they do need to keep winning to stay there while the Eagles have an uphill task to hit the road and snap their five-game losing run under new coach Colin Driscoll in Geraldton.
Rockingham will then be back to Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Saturday night to host the Slammers.
The Slammers will be coming off hosting the Magic on Friday night while the Flames will be making their only appearance of the weekend but will be without Greg Hire who is on 3×3 FIBA World Cup duties in Amsterdam while there remains doubts over import guard Caleb White due to injury.
But it’s a game the Flames can’t afford to drop if they want to maintain their position in the top four.
The last game of the round then features two teams making their only appearances of Round 14 with the Senators hosting the Eastern Suns at Warwick Stadium.
Warwick comes into the game coming off a road loss to Geraldton but remain in third position at 12-4 but a loss could see them lose their top four position.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Suns need a win to be any hope of breaking into the top eight and improving on their current 7-10 record.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 14
Lakeside Lightning v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Mandurah Magic – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Willetton Tigers – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Mandurah Magic v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – Wally Hagan Stadium 7.00pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Kambalda Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v CMTG East Perth Eagles – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Print Sync South West Slammers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Warwick Stadium 8.00pm