ROUND 17 of the Men’s SBL begins on Friday with a battle of top four sides Joondalup and Lakeside with a virtual eliminator too between the Eastern Suns and Redbacks before six more huge match ups on Saturday evening.
The last month of the 2019 Men’s SBL season begins this weekend and it’s a round full of match ups with plenty at stake with the three games on Friday night, six more on Saturday evening and the another on Sunday afternoon.
Stakes are high for virtually every game now with the Wolves, Flames, Buccs, Lightning, Senators and Hawks all fighting over top four positions, and then the Giants, Eastern Suns, Tigers and Redbacks all locked in a battle over seventh and eighth spots.
Round 17 in the Men’s SBL begins on Friday night with the league-leading Joondalup Wolves hosting the fourth placed Lakeside Lightning.
The Mandurah Magic are at home to the hot Rockingham Flames as well while the Perth Redbacks and Kalamunda Eastern Suns clash at Belmont Oasis with both desperate for the win.
Saturday evening’s action then begins at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lakeside Lightning hosting the East Perth Eagles.
The Cockburn Cougars also take on the Perry Lakes Hawks while the Goldfields Giants play the Willetton Tigers, the Rockingham Flames face the Geraldton Buccaneers, the South West Slammers host the Joondalup Wolves and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns battle the Warwick Senators.
The final game of Round 17 takes place at Belmont Oasis with the Perth Redbacks hosting the Geraldton Buccaneers.
The first game of the round could very well be the best with the Wolfpack hosting the Lightning at HBF Arena on Friday night.
The Wolves remain the benchmark team in the competition sitting clear on top of the ladder with a 17-4 record and having steadied well with wins against the Redbacks and Tigers since a loss to the Flames.
The Lightning come into the clash in hot form too having won four straight to now occupy fourth position at 14-5 coming off a terrific 10-point win in Geraldton last Saturday night.
Not only are both teams genuine title threats, but there are fascinating match ups all over the floor.
Starting with the bigs, you have Joondalup’s Kevin Davis, Rob Huntington and Damian Matacz up against Lakeside’s Michael Vigor and Jarrad Prue.
The battle of three men could be pivotal too with the Wolves’ Earnest Ross against the Lightning’s Jobi Wall and then the shooting guards will be decisive with who can catch fire out of Ridell Camidge and Jack Isenbarger.
With all that in mind, it looms as a potential game of the season to open Round 17 at HBF Arena on Friday night.
Also on Friday night, it’s a big task ahead of the Magic as they host the firing Flames at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Mandurah has now lost four straight and has just the five wins for the season, but they do have some exciting talent with imports Shaun Stewart and Marvin Smith along with the ever-improving Travis Durnin and then son-of-a-legend Jerami Grace.
But taking down Rockingham even in Mandurah is going to be a big challenge with the form the Flames are in. They have now won four straight to occupy second spot on the table and that’s while they are still not at full strength.
Luke Travers will be away until just before playoffs now but the Flames will be hoping import Josh Ritchart returns having missed the past three matches.
The last game on Friday night is a massive one for both the Redbacks and Eastern Suns at Belmont Oasis.
The Redbacks do appear to have the job ahead of them to reach the playoffs, but that challenge will become almost impossible if they don’t win on Friday night.
They come into the weekend in 10th spot at 8-13 having lost their previous four matches. But if Marshall Nelson and Lee Roberts catch fire and get support from Zac Gattorna, Majier Garang and Joel Wagner, they are a capable team.
But the Eastern Suns also need to win to stay inside the top eight which is where they sit coming into Round 17 following last week’s win in Kalgoorlie over the Giants.
That came in the absence of Louis Timms with Ryan Blanchett stepping up huge and then imports Josh Braun and Javion Blake tremendous again.
That saw the Eastern Suns improve to 9-11 to take eighth spot and then it’s theirs to keep if they can keep on winning.
Saturday’s action begins at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lightning hosting the Eagles from 6pm.
The Lightning will be fresh off playing in Joondalup on Friday while it’s a big job ahead of the Eagles to win on the road. But they are a team playing with great spirit right now and with plenty of talent too led by Drew Williamson and imports Cameron Williams and Anthony Golden.
Then in Kalgoorlie, it’s a massive game in the context of the seasons of both the Giants and Tigers.
Goldfields is coming off losing last Saturday night also at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium to the Eastern Suns to slip to an 11-10 record on the season to be clinging to seventh position.
A win on Saturday night and they will steady their playoff hopes but a loss and they are right back fighting to make it over the final three weeks.
Kalgoorlie will be desperate for the return of Jay Bowie to face a Willetton team he spent the past three seasons playing with as well.
But it’s an equally big game for Willetton as they hit the road in the 200th game of captain Andrew Black.
Despite losses the past two weeks to the Buccaneers and Wolves, the Tigers continue to play with great spirit despite being undermanned and a win in Kalgoorlie enhances their hopes of taking part in the post-season once more.
There’s another huge clash on Saturday night too at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Flames hosting the Buccaneers in a match that could well and truly decide second spot.
The Flames will have already played Mandurah the previous night while Geraldton will begin its double-header road trip in Rockingham and looking to respond straightaway to last week’s loss at home to the Lightning.
It’s then top against bottom at Eaton Recreation Centre with the Slammers hosting the Wolfpack.
Last time they met was five weeks ago at HBF Arena and the Wolves won by 60 points. But the Slammers have been significantly more competitive since then, including getting their breakthrough win of the season, and will look to take it right up to the Wolfpack on Saturday night.
The last game on Saturday night then features the Eastern Suns hosting the Senators at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
The Suns will have already played at Belmont on Friday and this is another huge game in their playoff push, but it’s significant for the struggling Senators too.
They had lost three straight before an important steadier against the Slammers on Sunday but they have dropped out of the top four and need to start regaining some of the form that had them on top of the table earlier in the season.
Senators coach Mike Ellis knows that Kalamunda will be tough to beat but hopes to see his team start to turn the corner again.
“When we played them here, I said before the game that this team is a much better one than their record suggests. That’s still the case and we got over them in a bit of a close one that night, and we were lucky enough to finish it,” Ellis said.
“I was talking to Mark Utley afterwards and he said they just aren’t quite able to get those close wins. But they sure as hell have played everybody down to the wire and they are a good side. Not many teams can win in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton in the one season so that’s a testament to them.
“And they are always especially tough out there so we’re going to have to come and be ready to play. It’s a chance for us to play well though and build our confidence back up.
“This win over the Slammers was a start for us as a building block and it probably didn’t go as far as we would have liked. But it’s a start nonetheless and now we have to build on that.”
There is then one lone match on Sunday at noon at Belmont Oasis with the Redbacks hosting the Buccaneers.
Both teams will have already played earlier in the weekend but with the Redbacks trying to keep their season alive and the Buccs desperate to finish top two, there’ll be plenty at stake.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 17
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Lakeside Lightning – HBF Arena 8.30pm
Mandurah Magic v Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Lakeside Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Wally Hagan Stadium 7.00pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Willetton Tigers – Niels Hansen Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Belmont Oasis 12.00pm