THE final month of the 2019 Women’s SBL season begins with a host of season-defining contests beginning on Friday night with the Joondalup Wolves trying to bounce back against the Lakeside Lightning while Mandurah and Rockingham lock horns as do the Redbacks and Eastern Suns.
Round 17 in the Women’s SBL gets underway with three huge match ups on Friday night with each of them having significant implications for the teams already inside the top eight and then those still in finals contention trying to keep their seasons alive.
There are then four more matches on Saturday night and while that includes a top against bottom clash, the other six teams in action all have plenty on the line when they hit the floor.
The three games on Friday night to open the round are all going to tell us plenty about the six teams involved with each of the contests tipping off at 6.30pm.
The Joondalup Wolves and Lakeside Lightning do battle at Joondalup’s HBF Arena with the Lady Wolfpack desperate to end their five-game losing streak while the Lightning can further stretch their advantage in top spot.
The Mandurah Magic and Rockingham then do battle for the second time within a month.
In that last meeting, the Flames won big but the Magic haven’t lost since coming into a tantalising match up on Friday night at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre with both trying to stay in the top four race.
The last Friday night match up is massive especially for the Kalamunda Eastern Suns who play the Perth Redbacks at Belmont Oasis. The Redbacks are on a five-game winning run while the Suns are still outside the top eight and needing to string wins together to stay alive.
There are then four matches on Saturday beginning at 4pm with the Lakeside Lightning hosting the East Perth Eagles at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Then at 5pm, the Cockburn Cougars host the Perry Lakes Hawks with the South West Slammers then taking on the Joondalup Wolves at 6pm and finally at 6.30pm, the Kalamunda Eastern Suns are playing the Warwick Senators at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Things get underway with a tantalising match up on Friday night with the Lady Wolfpack hosting the Lightning at HBF Arena.
Only a few weeks ago, this could have been a battle over top spot but the Wolves have hit a slide having now lost five straight matches to just be clinging to fourth position and in desperate need of a win.
Losses to the Slammers, Magic, Flames, Redbacks and Tigers have seen the Wolves go from 11-2 to 11-7 and needing to gel together with the arrival of new players Jasmine Martin and Andee Ritter following the departure of Kayla Steindl.
But returning to the winner’s list on Friday at the expense of Lakeside even at HBF Arena is going to be no easy task. The Lightning have won four of their last five games to be sitting two games clear on top of the table with the regular season championship theirs to lose at this point.
Then also on Friday night, the Magic and Flames meet in Mandurah in what should be another fantastic contest.
The two teams last met in Rockingham a month ago with the Flames dominating that night, but the Magic haven’t lost since while the Flames have continued to be up and down going 2-2 over the last month since.
The game is massive for both teams in terms of staying in touch for a top four finish too with Mandurah currently 11-7 because of their five-game winning run while Rockingham is 9-8 so another loss and the Flames would be back to fighting for just a spot in the top eight over the last three weeks.
Rockingham coach Keegan Crawford knows what sort of a challenge awaits his team especially with the knowledge it will be Darcee Garbin’s last appearance of the regular season.
“They’ve added another import after sending one of their other imports home, Carly Boag is only getting better coming back off her injury and Milo is still Milo, you can never underestimate them,” Crawford said.
“Since I’ve been in the league as an assistant six years ago, their nucleus has stayed the same and you know what you get when you are playing Mandurah especially in Mandurah – you get grit, grind and toughness.
“They are ahead of us on the ladder right now but you know no matter where they sit they’ll always give you a game. We know it’s going to be a tough contest.
The other Friday night contest is equally important as the Redbacks and Eastern Suns meet at Belmont Oasis as they fight over spots in the bottom part of the eight.
The Redbacks are now in some hot form in recent times and come into the game on a five-game winning streak after beating the Flames in Rockingham impressively last Friday night.
But this game will be the last of the regular season for superstar Lauren Mansfield and her chemistry building with Morgan Pullins, Rosie Deegan, Nes’eya Williams, Jess Jakens and company has been behind their resurgence up to a 9-9 record having won five straight.
They now host a desperate and fresh Eastern Suns team on Friday night with Kalamunda currently at 7-9 and two games behind the Redbacks. But a win over the Redbacks for Suns and that gap is closing and it well and truly keeps them in the playoff mix.
Redbacks coach Craig Allen Is delighted with how his team is playing but knows they can’t afford to take anything for granted still with the tightness of the competition.
“The challenges don’t go away, there’s no question about that. Any one of a number of teams can still get into that finals mix and it’s a really great competition,” Allen said.
“I love the involvement and the close games, and the fact that there are multiple teams who are challenging to reach the finals.
“There are teams not currently in the eight who can still threaten for a championship. It’s a wonderful state for the SBL to be in and this game coming up against Kalamunda is another one we know we are going to have to be at our best to win.”
Suns coach Tom Knowles will be hoping for a big performance coming off the bye for his team who have won four of their past five.
“It’s probably the biggest game of the season at the moment for us. Lauren’s a big piece in that team for Redbacks and she controls the ball really well, and makes really good decisions,” Knowles said.
“She is a very talented point guard obviously so a lot of what happens in that game will revolve around our ability to keep her under control. LJ will do her best against her, though, and she’s very good at bothering people and getting under their skin. If we can keep her on the court for the whole game then look out.”
Saturday’s action begins with a 4pm start at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lightning hosting the East Perth Eagles.
Lakeside will be coming off playing in Joondalup the night before while East Perth will just be looking to save face and fight hard to avoid a hefty loss against the competition’s top team.
The Cougars and Hawks then meet at Wally Hagan Stadium in what is another fascinating contest.
Cockburn comes into the game at 3-14 and out of the playoff hunt, and having gone 1-8 at home this season, but that doesn’t tell the story of how competitive and hard to beat they have been.
That’s despite never being close to full strength all season and even last week they pushed the Senators despite the absence of Ruby Benn, Jodee Sontay and company.
It’s a game Perry Lakes can’t afford a slip up in but Cockburn will make them earn the victory. The Lady Hawks returned to the top eight with the win last Sunday over East Perth having lost to Mandurah the night before.
So the Hawks need to string wins together to maintain their place in the eight and hold off the Slammers and Suns.
Also on Saturday night, the Slammers host the Wolves in another big game for both clubs at Eaton Recreation Centre.
It will be the Slammers only appearance of the weekend while Joondalup will have already hosted Lakeside on the Friday night.
Last time the teams met was the start of the Wolfpack’s losing slide when the Slammers won impressively at HBF Arena. They now need to repeat the dose on their home floor to improve on their 8-10 record and stay in the playoff hunt.
Slammers coach Nathan Grover hopes his team takes heart from having played well against the Wolves five weeks ago, but knows the Wolves will be coming down to make a statement at the same time.
“I hope we can do well against them again. I know Nixy will be coming after us after we beat them up there and they are a different squad again to when we played them last time,” Grover said.
“They have a lot to play for as well and they’ve lost a few on the trot now so they are going to be pretty desperate to cling onto top four as much as they can.
“But it’s always tough coming down to Eaton and we’ll be primed and ready for them because to be honest I think we probably have more at stake than what they do.
“The belief is there that we can play well against them and I think we match up pretty well with them, and we know them pretty well because of their familiar faces and old teammates of a couple of girls.
“The belief is there in the group, it’s just about executing that and getting it out onto the court and getting the job done.”
The final match of the round then takes place at Ray Owen Sports Centre with the Eastern Suns hosting the Senators.
Kalamunda will have already played on Friday night against the Redbacks so that will tell a story of what’s at stake for them on Saturday night.
But the Senators just need to keep winning to stay in second spot and with Stacey Barr and Samaria Howard in the form they are in from the backcourt and Bianca Villegas back in touch inside, they are a dangerous looking unit.
Senators coach Dion Dagostino knows how dangerous a team like Kalamunda is fighting for their season though.
“All those teams are coming out hard but we just have to weather whatever they throw at us and continue to push it hard for the full 40 minutes to get over them. They are like a lot of the teams, they’re not as bad as their positions on the ladder say they are,” Dagostino said.
“They are another really good team and we haven’t been able to blow any of those teams out in those six, seven, eight, nine or 10 positions because they are good teams. They are getting their gear together and are starting to gel so it will be another good challenge for us.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 17
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Lakeside Lightning – HBF Arena 6.30pm
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic v Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Belmont Oasis 6.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Lakeside Recreation Centre 4.00pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Wally Hagan Stadium 5.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm