SEASONS could very well be defined in Round 14 of the Women’s SBL and with the South West Slammers facing a double-header against two teams holding the same record, the Mandurah Magic and Rockingham Flames, there’s plenty on the line in the space of 24 hours.
With the Flames, Slammers and Magic all locked on 7-7 records coming into Round 14 of the 2019 Women’s SBL season, the pressure is heating up for those positions in the bottom half of the top eight with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Perry Lakes Hawks and Perth Redbacks one or two games back.
The fact that both the Magic and Flames play games against the Slammers this weekend make it quite the fascinating round while the Perth Redbacks’ finals hopes go on the line as well in a double-header against Willetton and Cockburn.
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ROUND 13 WOMEN’S SBL RECAP
There are three games on Friday night to open Round 14 with the Lakeside Lightning playing the Cockburn Cougars at Lakeside Recreation Centre, the South West Slammers hosting the Mandurah Magic at Eaton Recreation Centre, and the Perth Redbacks facing the Willetton Tigers at Belmont Oasis.
There are then another four matches in the Women’s SBL on Saturday night beginning with the early starting fixtures between the Mandurah Magic and Joondalup Wolves at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, and the Cockburn Cougars hosting the Perth Redbacks at Wally Hagan Stadium.
The other two matches see the Rockingham Flames take on the South West Slammers at Mike Barnett Sports Complex, and the Warwick Senators facing the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Warwick Stadium.
Starting on Friday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre, the Lightning host the Cougars and despite their positions on the ladder it’s the second place team coming off a loss and the second last ranked team coming in off a win.
The Lightning suffered a shock 29-point loss last Saturday night to Mandurah with the defending champions having now lost two of their past four games having only lost two in total in the previous 37.
So Lakeside will be desperate to bounce back but it won’t be easy against a Cougars team fresh off their third win of the season that saw them snap a 10-game losing run despite having parted ways with star import Kisha Lee.
But without Lee, others stepped up led by new import Alina Hartmann who was named Player of the Round while Matilda Muir, Jodee Sontay and Matilda Muir were all terrific as well.
The Cougars did frustrate the Lightning last time they played with their physical approach and they’ll attempt to do the same this Friday night.
Another fascinating Friday night battle pits two of the 7-7 teams against one another with the Slammers hosting the Magic at Eaton Recreation Centre.
The Slammers come into the game back at home in their best form of the season having beaten the Joondalup Wolves and Perry Lakes Hawks on the road the past fortnight.
Meanwhile, the Magic bounced back tremendously last Saturday night to beat Lakeside 71-42 just 24 hours after a tough loss in Rockingham.
This shapes as a season-defining game for both teams with the winner a chance to consolidate a top eight spot and the loser left fighting for theirs.
Magic captain Rachel Halleen will also be celebrating her 300-game milestone during the game but she is just focused on her team trying to replicate what they did against Lakeside, this time away from Mandurah.
“Everyone is up and about, and really excited coming off that good win so we have two chances this weekend to consolidate that performance,” Halleen said.
“Hopefully we can keep pushing forward and keep on working our way up the ladder and head into the playoffs.
“There were so many upsets in the league last weekend and just because you’re winning games, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are climbing the ladder because it’s such a tight competition this year.
“It does force you to keep on wanting to get better individually and to make your team better, and that’s good for the level of basketball in general.”
The last game on Friday night sees the Redbacks take on the Tigers at Belmont Oasis and it’s another significant contest for both clubs.
The Redbacks come into the round at 5-9 and a game behind the eighth placed Kalamunda Eastern Suns but looking to build on last week’s 51-point victory against the East Perth Eagles.
The Tigers, meanwhile, are four wins clear in fourth position at 11-6 but have been a little up and down of late losing to the Cougars and Eagles, but winning impressively against the Flames and Wolves.
Last time they met, Willetton did win 94-68 on their home floor but the Redbacks will be determined for a more competitive showing this time around as they try to go on a run if they hope to play finals in 2019.
Redbacks star Lauren Mansfield a WNBL and Australian Opals star is one of the best-credentialed players in the Women’s SBL and she’s hoping for a big showing from her team against Willetton on Friday.
“They’re a really tough team. They play well as a team and you can tell they are well structured. They shot the lights out too last game against us so we would love to limit their open looks which I think will definitely help,” Mansfield said.
“They have had a bit of an up and down season too, so hopefully we can get them on a down night and we’ll try to really attack them early on. Hopefully we can keep the momentum from there and it will be nice playing in our home gym again. It’s a big and important game for us, hopefully we can get the win.”
The Saturday evening action then begins with another tantalising match up with the Magic backing up to host the Lady Wolfpack at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Mandurah will be coming off playing away to the Slammers on Friday night while the Wolves will be fresh off having not played a game since losing at home to South West two weeks ago.
Despite that, Joondalup remains on top of the table with an 11-3 record but they will be determined to bounce back from that last up loss having had two weeks to stew over it.
Mandurah captain Rachel Halleen will be recognised for her 300th game on her home court but is hoping the double-header pays dividends for the Magic again just like it did a week ago no matter how Friday night goes.
“Last week showed just how good double-headers can be because we sucked on Friday night, but had the chance to play again the next night,” Halleen said.
“You do pull up sore from those double-headers, but once you get warmed up in the game on Saturday night you kind of forget you played the night before a lot of the time.
“We’ve all been pretty good with our recovery sessions whether it’s going to the beach or going back to someone’s pool at home the night after the Friday game to do a group recovery, and then have a session at the gym on Saturday morning.
“We are pretty good at getting our bodies in the best conditions we can during these double-headers. The coaching staff that I’ve been involved with have always been pretty good with load management as well before and after double-headers.”
Two more teams that played on Friday night will then back up on Saturday with the Cougars hosting the Redbacks at Wally Hagan Stadium.
Cockburn has the chance to again play the spoilers while it’s a game Perth can’t afford to lose if they hope to reach the playoffs in 2019.
It will be the first home game for Cockburn since Jodee Sontay reached 350 SBL games as well, becoming just the 12th woman to do so.
She has been one of the great warriors of the league playing at the Wolves, Eagles, Senators and now Cougars, and she is looking forward to celebrating the milestone in front of family and friends, and current and former teammates on Saturday night even if acknowledging she might get emotional.
“I really am looking forward to it. It’s not something I have really thought about even at the beginning of the season, the 350 milestone wasn’t a reason for me to continue playing. I actually didn’t even know about it coming up until earlier this year,” Sontay said.
“So now for the game on Saturday night, I’m just proud of the achievement and the sacrifices I’ve made, and the people that I’ve played with along the way. To get there is a big effort and I am really proud of it, and I’m really excited to play as well and I’m hoping we get a win with it too. That would be the icing on the cake.
“I have been thinking about it over the last few weeks and I do think it might a bit of an emotional night just to see those people there who support you. I reckon my mum has been to 335 of those 350 games too so she has been an amazing supporter of mine.
“It’s going to be really lovely to see some old faces there that I’ve played with over the years along some family and friends that I know are coming. Part of why you do it is to establish those relationships with people and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Flames and Slammers then meet at Mike Barnett Sports Complex in another game for the weekend featuring two teams entering Round 14 with 7-7 records so the stakes couldn’t be higher.
South West will be fresh off playing at home to Mandurah on Friday night while Rockingham will be fresh having a week to recover from last Saturday night’s loss to Kalamunda that came 24 hours after a dominant win over the Magic under caretaker coach Keegan Crawford.
The final game of the weekend in the Women’s SBL then features two teams making their only appearances of Round 14 with the Senators playing the Eastern Suns at Warwick Stadium.
Warwick is coming into the game following the bye but on a five-game winning streak that sees them knocking on the door of a top two position with a 10-3 record.
Kalamunda, though, is in good form as well having now won three straight to improve to a 6-8 record and currently sit inside the top eight entering the round.
So with the Senators looking for a sixth straight win and keep banging down the door for a top two position and the Eastern Suns searching for a fourth successive win and to remain in the top eight it should be a fantastic contest.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 14
Lakeside Lightning v Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars – Lakeside Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Willetton Tigers – Belmont Oasis 6.30pm
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 5.00pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – Wally Hagan Stadium 5.00pm
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames v Print Sync South West Slammers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Warwick Stadium 6.00pm