ROUND 15 of the Women’s SBL sees the stakes rise right across the competition with two huge games for the Warwick Senators against the Perry Lakes Hawks and Lakeside Lightning with the Joondalup Wolves having two genuine tests too from the Rockingham Flames and Perth Redbacks.
With just six rounds of the 2019 regular season remaining, the race for spots in that top four and then in the playoffs overall are heating up meaning virtually every match from here on out has plenty riding on it.
All three games on Friday night and the four on Saturday night in Round 15 of the Women’s SBL are certainly no exception.
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It all gets underway on Friday night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Rockingham Flames hosting the Joondalup Wolves with Flames forward Ella Kennedy celebrating her 200th SBL appearance.
Then also on Friday night, the Warwick Senators play the Perry Lakes Hawks at Warwick Stadium, and the East Perth Eagles host the Mandurah Magic at Herb Graham Recreation Centre.
The action doesn’t stop there with four more match ups on Saturday night starting at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cockburn Cougars taking on the South West Slammers.
The Joondalup Wolves then play the Perth Redbacks at HBF Arena with the Lakeside Lightning also taking on the Warwick Senators at Lakeside Recreation Centre and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns hosting the East Perth Eagles at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Starting with the games on Friday night, the Senators take on the Lady Hawks at Warwick Stadium in a crucial match for both teams.
The Senators come into the game on a six-game winning run to be in second position at 11-3 but they do need to keep winning to maintain a spot in the top two.
Meanwhile, the Hawks just need to find a way to win coming off the bye and losing three straight matches to the Eastern Suns, Lightning and Slammers. That has seen them slip outside the top eight with a 6-8 record coming into Round 15.
To pull off the upset on the road, the Hawks will need a big game from Nat Burton up against Warwick’s strong frontcourt including Sam Roscoe, Bianca Villegas and Tayla Hepburn.
Jamie Cherry and Rebecca Benson will need to match the output of Samaria Howard and Stacey Barr as well while the battle between Nicole Jorre De St Jorre and Nikita Martin will be fascinating as well.
Another Friday night contest pits the Eagles against the Magic at Herb Graham Recreation Centre.
It’s a big challenge for an East Perth team with just the one win this season and who are now playing without an import following the departure of Janee Johnson.
The task against the Magic is a significant one with Mandurah playing its best basketball of the season following a loss two Friday nights ago to the Rockingham Flames. Since then, they have beaten Lakeside, South West and Joondalup impressively.
Considering all three teams are in the top eight and the Lightning and Wolves were on top at the time they beat them, it’s an impressive form line for the Magic who have now also welcomed new import Taylor Brown who was impressive in her first two appearances last week.
The last game in the Women’s SBL on Friday night should be a beauty at Mike Barnett Sports Complex between Rockingham and Joondalup.
The Flames come into the contest with an 8-7 record in sixth position and need to win to maintain pace with the top four and to avoid pressure from below to hold onto their spot in the top eight.
The Wolves, meanwhile, come into the game on a two-game losing streak that has seen them slip to third position in the standings at 11-4.
They lost in Mandurah last week but will be hoping for a better trip south this Friday night and for new arrivals Jasmine Martin and Andee Ritter to have had another week to fit in better.
Both teams deserve to be thought of as championship threats and we could learn plenty by how they match up on Friday night.
Without Kayla Steindl, it’s a big challenge for the Wolfpack frontcourt and Ritter, Amber Land and Amy Kidner have to come up big against Darcee Garbin, Maddie Allen and Christina Boag from the Flames.
The backcourts are deep for both teams too with the Flames’ featuring Alex Ciabattoni, Janelle Adams, Chelsea Petrik and Paris Duffield, and the Wolves having Mikayla Pirini, Georgia Denehey, Chelsea Belcher and now Martin.
Not only is it a significant game in the context of the seasons for both the Wolves and Flames, but Rockingham’s Ella Kennedy will also be celebrating her 200th game in the SBL.
Having started her career with Willetton where she played her first 113 games in the league, Kennedy has been a key part of the Flames since joining in 2016 and is looking forward to Friday night’s battle with the Lady Wolfpack.
“I think it’s going to be a really good game. The girls are all still super annoyed that we lost to them last time just because we lost by so much which infuriates anyone,” Kennedy said.
“I think it’s going to be a really good game and I know personally I’m extremely ready to go out there and just give it everything. Hopefully we can come away with the win but they do have a lot of talent.
“They’ve also lost one of their most important players, though, and hopefully we can take advantage of that. We’ve gained one with Alex so it will be a good match and we’ll just wait to see what happens.”
Saturday night’s action in the Women’s SBL begins at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars hosting the Slammers.
Cockburn has been playing significantly better basketball than its 3-12 record suggests so they will be looking to claim another big scalp when they host the Slammers.
Slammers were in tremendous form coming into Round 14 having scored big road wins over the Wolves and Hawks, but they were without 340-game veteran Kate Fielding last weekend and didn’t have the depth to cover in losses to the Magic and Flames.
That sees the Slammers cling to a spot still inside the top eight at 7-9 but they can’t afford a slip up against the Cougars to remain in that position by the end of Round 15.
The Lady Wolfpack then back up their trip to Rockingham on Friday night by hosting the Redbacks on Saturday at HBF Arena.
The Wolves will either be full of confidence or determined to bounce back depending on how Friday goes, but either way the Redbacks will be a stern opponents.
Perth is now in its best run of form of the season having strung three wins together to break into the top eight with Lauren Mansfield finding the form that has made her a WNBL star and an Australian Opals representative.
With support from Nes’eya Williams, Morgan Pullins, Jess Jakens and Rosie Deegan, the Readbacks have got on a roll and it would be a significant scalp could they win in Joondalup on Saturday night.
Wolves coach Charles Nix and star point guard Mikayla Pirini will also come up against a Redbacks team they were with in their semi-final run of 2018.
Another Saturday night clash which should be a cracking contest takes place at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the defending champion Lightning hosting the second placed Senators.
The Senators come into the round in second spot and will have hosted Perry Lakes on Friday night while the Lightning enter Round 15 on top of the table having responded to a loss to Mandurah last week with good win against the Cougars.
They are the current top two teams so that says it all about what a tremendous contest it should be. And if their meeting a month ago is anything to go by where the Senators opened up a 20-point lead and then shook off a Lightning fightback, it should be a contest that goes right down to the wire.
The final game of the round then takes place at Ray Owen Sports Centre with the Eastern Suns hosting the Eagles.
East Perth will be coming off a tough game on Friday night against Mandurah while Kalamunda will make its only appearance of the weekend and can’t afford to drop the game if they want to maintain touch with the top eight.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 15
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Warwick Stadium 6.30pm
Schweigen East Perth Eagles v Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic – Herb Graham Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.30pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Print Sync South West Slammers – Wally Hagan Stadium 5.00pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – HBF Arena 6.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Lakeside Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm