ROUND 18 in the Women’s SBL signals just three rounds remaining in the regular season with plenty on the line starting with massive Friday night matches including the Magic hosting the Tigers, and Lady Hawks up against the Redbacks.
Coming into Round 18 of the 2019 Women’s SBL season, there appears to be five teams fighting out for the top four positions and then another five teams battling it out for the remaining three positions in the top eight.
Obviously one of those five will miss out on a top four spot and home court advantage in the quarter finals meaning any loss for the Lightning, Senators, Wolves, Magic or Tigers now could prove decisive.
Then there are the Lady Hawks, Flames, Eastern Suns, Redbacks and Slammers fighting over the remaining three positions in the top eight with two of those destined to miss out on post-season action.
It’s going to be a defining Round 18 of competition in the Women’s SBL beginning with five huge match ups on Friday night including the Kalamunda Eastern Suns playing the Cockburn Cougars at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
The Mandurah Magic host the Willetton Tigers at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre while the Perry Lakes Hawks face the Perth Redbacks at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Lakeside Lightning also face the South West Slammers at Lakeside Recreation Centre, and the East Perth Eagles host the Rockingham Flames at Herb Graham Recreation Centre.
There is then another three matches on Saturday night with the Warwick Senators taking on the East Perth Eagles at Warwick Stadium, the South West Slammers hosting the Perry Lakes Hawks at Eaton Recreation Centre, and the Rockingham Flames battling the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
On Friday night starting at Ray Owen Sports Centre, the Eastern Suns can’t afford a slip up but the Cougars will be ready to start upsetting the apple cart.
Kalamunda comes into the game in impressive form having won three straight matches to be in eighth position with import Katie Yohn settling nicely and Jennie Rintala, Jewel Williams and Lauren Jeffers all in tremendous form.
They need to keep winning to stay in the top eight but the Cougars won’t be handing them anything. Despite being well understrength, the Cougars continue to battle hard and are much tougher to beat than their 3-15 record suggests.
Then in Mandurah, it’s a contest that could well and truly decide which team ends up in the top four when the Magic take on the Tigers.
Mandurah comes into the game in tremendous form having won six straight matches to be building perfectly at the right time of the season.
They will be without captain Rachel Halleen with a knee injury suffered in last week’s win against the Flames, but with Taylor Brown and Casey Mihovilovich firing in the backcourt, and Bree and Emma Klasztorny, and Carly Boag inside, it’s an impressive Magic line-up.
However, the Tigers have shown they lift for the occasion of playing the top sides all season and they will be making the trip to Mandurah ready to take a big step towards locking away fourth spot coming off the bye.
Both teams come into the game at 12-7 so Magic coach Craig Watts knows what’s at stake.
“At the end of the day, every week is still a challenge and it shows how tight it is. Going into last week, if we dropped every game we could have still dropped out of the eight and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Watts said.
“The challenges are going to come every week and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’ve now got Willo coming up and it’s an especially big game because it could determine whether we finish in the top four or not.
“But the motto is that if you keep winning, your destiny is in your own hands and you don’t have to rely on other sides. It’s important to be able to set it up for yourself.”
Then there is the Hawks taking on the Redbacks at Bendat Basketball Centre in a game that could go a long way to deciding the fortunes in 2019 of both teams.
Perry Lakes has improved to a 9-9 record on the back of winning their past two matches with the addition of Megan McKay to the frontcourt proving significant.
But the Hawks do need to keep winning to stay where they are and it’s going to be a good test up against the Redbacks on Friday night.
The Redbacks had won five straight prior to last Friday’s loss to Kalamunda which saw them drop back out of the top eight at 9-10. But Friday’s game is the last of the regular season they will have Lauren Mansfield heightening the importance of them recording the victory.
Lakeside is also hosting South West on Friday evening with the Lightning looking to win to maintain their hold on top spot. They currently hold a 14-4 record and have lost two fewer games than the next closest challenger.
But it’s a huge game for the Slammers. At 8-11 and having lost the last couple, they will likely need to win each of their remaining three matches to reach the playoffs so that has to start by a win at Lakeside against the league-leading defending champions.
The last game on Friday night takes place at Herb Graham Recreation Centre in Mirrabooka with the Eagles hosting the Flames.
East Perth will be looking to put the pressure back on a Flames team desperate to win and who is vastly more talented than their 9-9 record suggests.
Rockingham is still not guaranteed of reaching the playoffs unless they string some wins together so it’s a chance for East Perth to play free and to put all the pressure back on the Flames.
It will also be Rockingham’s last game of the regular season with Darcee Garbin so they will want to get the win and bounce back from losses to the Magic and Redbacks over the past two Friday nights.
Then on Saturday night, the Eagles have the turnaround to travelling to Warwick Stadium to taking on the second placed Senators.
It’s the second significant challenge within 24 hours for East Perth with the Senators needing to bounce back from last week’s thrilling loss to the Eastern Suns to win and maintain their hold on second position.
The Slammers also back up from playing Lakeside on Friday to heading home to Eaton Recreation Centre and hosting the Lady Hawks on Saturday. It looms as another potentially season-defining game for both as they fight over those spots in the lower part of the eight.
The round then concludes with another cracking contest between two teams entering Round 18 on 9-9 records with the Flames hosting the Suns. Both will have already played on Friday night but this looms as another mouth-watering contest.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 18
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic v Willetton Tigers – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks v Texture WA Perth Redbacks – Bendat Basketball Centre 6.30pm
Lakeside Lightning v Print Sync South West Slammers – Lakeside Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Schweigen East Perth Eagles v Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames – Herb Graham Recreation Centre 6.30pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Warwick Stadium 6.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.00pm