HERITAGE Round in the Men’s SBL features eight games over three days and all deserve singling out but perhaps none more than Saturday’s regional clashes with the Geraldton Buccaneers hosting the Lakeside Lightning and Goldfields Giants taking on the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
With 10 teams remaining genuine chances to reach the playoffs and seven teams still capable of making it into the top four with five rounds left, it means that plenty is at stake across the Round 15 action this weekend.
While the Joondalup Wolves look secure in top spot, that leaves the Geraldton Buccaneers, Rockingham Flames, Lakeside Lightning, Warwick Senators, Perry Lakes Hawks and even the Goldfields Giants fighting over the other top four positions.
But even the Giants are still in a fight to remain in the top eight with the Willetton Tigers clinging to eighth spot and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Perth Redbacks breathing down their neck.
Even the East Perth Eagles, Cockburn Cougars, Mandurah Magic and South West Slammers are capable of beating teams above them meaning that the stage is set for a tantalising last five rounds of the regular season.
ROUND 15 MEN’S SBL RECAP
ROUND 15 SPOTLIGHT | BRAUN, BLAKE’S SUNS HOLD OFF WILLIAMSON’S EAGLES
ALL-ROUND STAR BRAUN LOVING LIFE DOWN UNDER
BOWIE BACK AT GIANTS TO REPLICATE FIRST SEASON MAGIC
BLACK CAN’T HIDE PRIDE IN TIGERS’ FIGHTING SPIRIT
ROBBINS SCRATCHING THE ITCH AFTER PREMATURE RETIREMENT
There is just the one game in the Men’s SBL on Friday night and that takes place at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the third place Rockingham Flames taking on the 10th place Perth Redbacks.
There are then five critical match ups on Saturday evening starting at 7pm with the Mandurah Magic taking on the Perry Lakes Hawks, and the Cockburn Cougars playing the Warwick Senators.
The two regional fixtures for the round are then massive encounters too with the Geraldton Buccaneers hosting the Lakeside Lightning, and the Goldfields Giants welcoming the Kalamunda Eastern Suns to Kalgoorlie.
The round then concludes on Sunday afternoon with two more matches that sees the Perry Lakes Hawks host the East Perth Eagles, and the Warwick Senators battle the South West Slammers.
Round 15 in the Men’s SBL gets underway on Friday night with the lone fixture that will be played for the Anthony Exeter Cup in honour of the former league MVP and great of both clubs who tragically passed away earlier this year.
Exeter played 229 games with Rockingham and 75 with the Redbacks during his standout SBL career between 1995 and 2007, and now the two clubs will be playing in his honour on Friday evening at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
It’s a big game for both clubs in the context of their seasons as well with the Flames looking to keep their impressive momentum going and the Redbacks needing to keep their season alive.
Rockingham is in a run of tremendous form having won four straight matches to sit in third position at 14-5 and now on Friday night they will welcome back Greg Hire from having played in Australia’s FIBA 3×3 World Cup campaign in Amsterdam.
With Caleb White having returned from injury last week, they will now be hoping that import big Josh Ritchart is right to play as well and for a rare time this season, the Flames might have a full strength squad on the park as they look for a fifth straight win.
It’s a huge game for the Redbacks and a significant challenge. Despite the return of 2017 Grand Final MVP Lee Roberts last week, they still lost to the Joondalup Wolves by 27 points.
They need a big lift this Friday night if they are to snap their three-game losing slide and improve on an 8-12 record that currently has them in 10th position and with plenty of work to do in order to book in a playoff spot.
The first Saturday night match up takes place from 7pm at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre with the Magic hosting the defending champion Hawks.
While Mandurah’s season might be over at 5-15 and having lost its past three matches in the absence of superstar point guard Shaun Stewart, there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the Magic with the presence of Jerami Grace.
He made his SBL debut last weekend and combined for 37 points and 14 assists in the losses to the Eagles and Giants.
The son of Australian basketball great Ricky will now look to put on a show in Mandurah on Saturday night and it will be quite the sight to see him share the court with the man that equalled his dad’s total of six Perth Wildcats MVP awards, Shawn Redhage.
Perry Lakes comes into the game in sixth position having beaten the Warwick Senators impressively last Friday night and with Clint Steindl returning from playing in the NBL Select Team’s tour of China, they will be looking to improve on their 12-7 record to keep their top four prospects alive.
The other game to tip-off at 7pm on Saturday night takes place at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars hosting the Senators.
Cockburn might be out of the playoff race at 5-14 but they are more than capable of playing spoilers the rest of the way evidenced by the fact they’ve now won two straight games against the Redbacks and Slammers.
It’s a dangerous Cockburn team with Gavin Field and Jaarod Holmes playing especially well with support from Jake Harris, Seva Chan, Jakob Knight and Hayden Bell.
But there is too much at stake for the Senators to be able to afford dropping the game on Saturday night given their two losses last weekend to the Hawks and Lightning have seen them lose their place in the top four.
So the Senators enter Round 16 in fifth position and having struggled in recent weeks in the absence of Wani Swaka Lo Buluk who had been running the point a lot for them when they are up and firing.
But they are still right in the hunt for a top four, and even top two spot, if they can get back to that winning form starting on Saturday night against the Cougars.
Kalgoorlie plays host to a pivotal game on Saturday night as well with the seventh place Giants hosting the ninth place Eastern Suns.
The Giants went 1-1 last weekend on the road beating the Magic on Saturday night but becoming the first team this season to lose to the Slammers on Sunday in the absence of Jay Bowie.
That saw them miss a chance to consolidate their spot in the top eight a bit more leaving them a little vulnerable at 11-9, making Saturday night’s game hosting Kalamunda especially important.
The Eastern Suns got 64 points, 11 rebounds and 18 assists out of imports Josh Braun and Javion Blake last Saturday night to beat the East Perth Eagles to snap a three-game losing slide to keep their season alive.
That improved the Suns to an 8-11 record on the season and having already won in Geraldton this season, the road trip will hold no fears and a win in Kalgoorlie really heats up the playoff battle.
Eastern Suns coach Mark Utley knows what a threat the Giants are, but he’s looking forward to his team hitting back from the home loss to them and backing up their performance to win in Geraldton.
“Looking at the run home, the Giants have the potential to finish in the top four and we think that they have a pretty good run home, and they’ll be planning for that,” Utley said.
“But for us it’s more about the fact that we played them earlier in the season and they actually beat us quite convincingly. We weren’t happy with how we played in that game and we think we’ve improved a lot since then, and we want to show that improvement.
“We went to Geraldton and won up there and as a metro team you set yourselves the goal to win the two road trips. We would like to do that.”
The other regional contest for Round 16 takes place in Geraldton with the Buccaneers hosting the Lightning in what should be a can’t-miss type affair.
The Buccs come into the game on a six-game winning streak to sit in second position at 14-4 while the Lightning are fourth at 13-5 having won three straight.
There are fascinating match ups all over the floor to look out for including inside with Geraldton’s Matt Wundenberg and Liam Hunt up against Lakeside’s Jarrad Prue and Michael Vigor. Prue is ranked first and Wundenberg fourth all-time for rebounds in SBL history.
Then you have Jobi Wall and Aaron Ralph who will spend plenty of time matched up as shooting three men, and in the backcourt you have DeAngelo Isby, Marcus Alipate, Brendan Dinardo and Colter Lasher from the Buccs against the Lightning’s Kyle Armour, Jack Isenbarger and Rowan Mackenzie.
A win for Lakeside and they are right in the hunt for a top two finish while a Geraldton win goes a long way to locking in a top two position.
The last game of Saturday night is another one featuring two in-form teams with Joondalup hosting Willetton at HBF Arena.
The Wolfpack remain clear on top of the standings at 16-4 having split their two games last weekend with a loss in Rockingham and then big win at home over the Redbacks.
The Wolves have won nine out of their last 10 matches but they do need to keep winning to maintain top position and they will want to play well against a Tigers team that could very well be their first round playoff opponent.
Willetton might have lost last Saturday night, but it was a strong showing in Geraldton to only go down by three points and beyond that, the Tigers had won five of their last six matches to be in their best form of the season to break into the top eight.
Another strong showing and upset win on Saturday night in Joondalup and the Tigers take a giant step towards another playoff appearance with Steve Black as coach.
There are then the two match ups on Sunday afternoon starting at 2pm. The Hawks back up playing in Mandurah on Saturday night by hosting a dangerous East Perth team at Bendat Basketball Centre who continue to undergo plenty of personnel changes both in terms of coaches and players.
Then at Warwick Stadium, the Senators host the Slammers with Warwick coming off playing at Cockburn on Saturday night against a fresh South West who for the first time in 2019 come into the game off a victory having broken their 18-game losing run.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – HERITAGE ROUND
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Mandurah Magic v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Wally Hagan Stadium 7.00pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Lakeside Lightning – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Willetton Tigers – HBF Arena 8.00pm
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks v CMTG East Perth Eagles – Bendat Basketball Centre 2.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Print Sync South West Slammers – Warwick Stadium 2.00pm