IT is Heritage Round in the SBL and things get underway with a cracking contest in Rockingham with the Flames hosting the Perth Redbacks with Saturday night highlighted by the Lady Wolfpack battling the Willetton Tigers and then two more critical Sunday match ups.
With just five rounds now remaining until the playoffs begin and with 10 teams still in contention to make it and with all 12 sides competitive enough to win on any given night, every game is taking on greater significance all the time.
Round 16 is no different and it’s littered with crucial match ups starting on Friday night in Rockingham through to the three matches on Saturday night and two more on Sunday afternoon to close out proceedings.
ZOE HARPER | 250 SBL GAMES
ROUND 15 WOMEN’S SBL RECAP
ROUND 15 SPOTLIGHT | EASTERN SUNS STAY ALIVE WITH WIN OVER EAGLES
ELLA KENNEDY | 200 SBL GAMES
MANSFIELD EXCITED BY FRESH LIGHTNING CHALLENGE
JODEE SONTAY | 350 SBL GAMES
‘DOCCY’ BLACK HAPPY TO LEAD WAY FOR FEMALE COACHES
There is just the one match on Friday night to open the round but it looms as a doozy with the Rockingham Flames hosting the Perth Redbacks at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
There are then three matches on Saturday evening beginning with the Mandurah Magic playing the Perry Lakes Hawks in a rematch of the 2017 Grand Final.
The Cockburn Cougars will also be hosting the Warwick Senators before two top four teams desperate for a bounce back victory lock horns at HBF Arena with the Joondalup Wolves hosting the Willetton Tigers with Willetton centre Zoe Harper celebrating SBL game 250.
The action doesn’t stop there, with two more matches on Sunday afternoon with the Perry Lakes Hawks hosting the East Perth Eagles and the Warwick Senators taking on the South West Slammers.
Round 16 in the Women’s SBL begins with the lone clash on Friday night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Flames hosting the Redbacks.
It should be a tremendous contest between the two teams who were eliminated in the playoffs last year by the Mandurah Magic, but are both in terrific form now heading towards the playoffs.
Rockingham made a coaching change three weeks ago and have won three of four games with Keegan Crawford at the helm including an impressive performance last week against the Joondalup Wolves.
With Alex Ciabattoni settling in nicely and with Darcee Garbin and Maddie Allen impressive inside, Rockingham are still in touch for a top four finish but at 9-7 they do need to keep winning to stay out of reach of the teams behind them.
Meanwhile, the Redbacks are in their best patch of form for the season too under new coach Craig Allen. After a slow start losing their opening six matches, the Redbacks have won four straight matches and eight of 11 since that opening.
That has them sitting inside the top eight with an 8-9 record and suddenly a win on Friday night in Rockingham and they are closing the gap on the Flames as well.
With Perth Lynx and Australian Opals star Lauren Mansfield in superb form with good support from Rosie Deegan, Nes’eya Williams, Jess Jakens and Morgan Pullins, it’s an impressive looking Redbacks team now setting stage for a tremendous standalone Friday contest.
Saturday evening’s action begins at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre at 5pm with the Magic hosting the Lady Hawks in a rematch of what was a cracking 2017 Grand Final.
It’s a huge game for both clubs too with Mandurah currently in its best run of form for the season and a win to potentially move them into the top four while Perry Lakes needs to win to try to break back into the top eight.
Three weeks ago the Magic had a poor loss in Rockingham, but they have been superb since beating Lakeside, South West, Joondalup and East Perth to suddenly go from clinging to a top eight spot to banging down the door to enter the top eight.
And while new import Taylor Brown has been a handy addition and the other import Delany Junkermeir has contributed a little better, the real improvement for Mandurah has come from stalwarts Bree and Emma Klasztorny, Casey Mihovilovich, and 302-game captain Rachel Halleen.
The Magic have played in the past two Grand Finals and are now building some impressive momentum ahead of hosting a Perry Lakes team desperate to win too.
The Lady Hawks remain outside the top eight despite an impressive 15-point win over the Senators at Warwick Stadium last Friday night.
With Megan McKay joining Nat Burton inside and with Jamie Cherry and Rebecca Benson in the back court along with a good group of role players, it is a playoff looking team Deanna Black is in charge of, but they need to string some wins together to make that happen.
Then also tipping off at 5pm on Saturday evening, the Cougars host the Senators at Wally Hagan Stadium with Cockburn looking to play spoilers once more.
The Cougars did score a win over the Tigers a couple of weeks back and have only lost three straight courtesy of playing strong teams since in the Lightning, Redbacks and Slammers.
But they will like their chances of putting a scare into the Senators on their home floor on Saturday with Warwick starting to feel the pressure from the chasing pack after losses to Perry Lakes and Lakeside last weekend.
That means the Senators need to keep winning to hold on to second spot and they can’t afford a slip up to the Cougars.
The other Saturday night fixture tips off at 6pm at HBF Arena and it should be a hotly-contested battle with the third place Wolfpack hosting the fourth place Tigers.
At different times during the season both have looked to be teams good enough to compete for the championship, but both have equally struggled in recent times meaning they will be desperate for the win.
The Lady Wolfpack have slipped to third position at 11-6 having now lost four straight games against the Slammers, Magic, Flames and Redbacks.
The Tigers were on fire back when they beat the Wolves on May 17, but they haven’t been able to recapture that form since losing to the Eagles, Senators, Cougars and Redbacks with the lone win in that stretch before last week’s bye coming against the Flames.
With the winner to remain in the top four and a chance for top two and the loser back to the pack fighting for a playoff berth, there’s plenty on the line at HBF Arena.
Six-time SBL championship winner Zoe Harper will also be celebrating her 250th game in the league and she remains confident of a strong Tigers showing to get their season back firing.
“We have had a couple of good sessions on the court now coming into this game and once we get to the game, it just comes down to us playing our kind of basketball,” Harper said.
“We have a young group of girls but they don’t give up and we need to go out on Saturday night and just fight until the end. Hopefully we’ll be the winners.
“Obviously we’ve got quite a young group this year and there’s been a few people coming in and out, including myself and then the imports came a few games in, but they did so well before I started playing.
“I definitely think we can get back to that level of basketball as a team and we just have to take it one game at a time.
“We have Joondalup this week and when they came to us we obviously won and we tend to play quite well against the better teams so I think we can get back to how we had been playing before these last few losses.”
There are then another two Women’s SBL matches on Sunday at noon with the Senators hosting the Slammers at Warwick Stadium.
Warwick will have already played Cockburn on Saturday night while the Slammers are making their only appearance of the weekend needing a win to stay inside the top eight and hold off the Lady Hawks who have two games in Round 16.
Speaking of Perry Lakes, they host the Eagles on Sunday as well coming off their game in Mandurah on Saturday while East Perth will be looking to take its second scalp of the season in their only game of Round 16.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – HERITAGE ROUND
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.30pm
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 5.00pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Wally Hagan Stadium 5.00pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Willetton Tigers – HBF Arena 6.00pm
Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Bendat Basketball Centre 12.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Print Sync South West Slammers – Warwick Stadium 12.00pm