IT might be the final round of the regular season in the Men’s SBL but little has been decided with five teams still capable of finishing in the top four while the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Goldfields Giants and Willetton Tigers battle over seventh and eighth positions.
It’s to the credit of the competition and competitive levels of the Men’s SBL this season that there are five teams legitimate chances of finishing in the top four with the Lakeside Lightning, Joondalup Wolves, Geraldton Buccaneers, Rockingham Flames, Perry Lakes hawks and Warwick Senators all deserving to consider themselves championship fancies too.
Then there is the fascinating battle for seventh and eighth positions with the Eastern Suns, Giants and Tigers all entering Round 20 on identical 13-12 records.
If all three of them win their match ups this weekend, then it will come down to their records against one another and that spells bad news for the Giants. Goldfields won just one of four matches this season against Kalamunda and Willetton.
It’s good news for Kalamunda who went 3-1 this season against the Tigers and Giants while Willetton went 2-2.
So to sum it up, if only two of Kalamunda, Goldfields and Willetton win their Saturday night matches, then those two finish seventh and eighth and the team that loses misses out.
If one of them wins, then it will come down to the head-to-head record between the two other teams. If that were to happen, the Suns would finish on top of Willetton, the Giants on top of the Suns and the Tigers in front of Goldfields should any of those be tied.
If all three teams win or lose, then Kalamunda and Willetton makes it, and Goldfields misses out.
That will all be decided on Saturday night with the Willetton Tigers hosting the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks at Willetton Basketball Stadium while the Goldfields Giants host the South West Slammers at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns play the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena.
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Those are the three matches that directly decide the seventh and eighth positions, but there are still the top six positions to be decided too.
That will begin to take shape on Friday night with the Rockingham Flames hosting the Lakeside Lightning at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
The other Friday night contest features the Perth Redbacks against the Cockburn Cougars at Belmont Oasis.
Then also on Saturday evening, the Cockburn Cougars also face the East Perth Eagles at Wally Hagan Stadium in what is Gavin Field’s 250th SBL appearance.
The Mandurah Magic also play the Warwick Senators at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre while the Lakeside Lightning play host to the Geraldton Buccaneers at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
The regular season then concludes on Sunday at Warwick Stadium with the Warwick Senators hosting the Geraldton Buccaneers.
The regular season then concludes on Sunday at Warwick Stadium with the Warwick Senators hosting the Geraldton Buccaneers.
The final round of the Men’s SBL season begins on Friday night at Belmont Oasis with the Redbacks hosting the Cougars.
It will be the last game of the regular season for the Redbacks as the 2017 champions will miss the playoffs having been a regular championship contending team now for a number of years.
While it will be disappointing to not take part in the post-season, coach Nik Lackovic has built for the future entrusting Zac Gattorna and Majier Garang to take on significant roles while Marshall Nelson is a genuine MVP contender based on his season.
The Redbacks host a Cougars team also out of playoff contention and looking to snap their own four-game losing run to try and finish the season on a high now with Jaarod Holmes and Seva Chan back in the line-up to join Gavin Field and Julian Pesava.
The other Friday night contest certainly isn’t a dead rubber with the fourth placed Flames hosting the ladder-leading Lightning.
Rockingham will be hosting its Mental Health Awareness Round game to commemorate the occasion and wearing specially designed black uniforms which will later be auctioned off.
The Flames will be hoping to get to full strength for the clash too with Josh Ritchart a chance to return from injury with Luke Travers also a possibility to be back in the line-up as they look to respond to a loss last Friday night to the Senators at Warwick Stadium.
Rockingham needs to win to avoid slipping out of the top four too and losing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
But knocking off Lakeside will be no easy task with the Lightning coming into the final round on top of the table with a 19-5 record and a nine-game winning streak.
Despite the absence of point guard Kyle Armour last weekend, the Flames beat the Eastern Suns and Hawks both on the buzzer by a combined three points to maintain their hot form and top position.
But the Lightning do need to keep winning to maintain that top spot making Friday night’s game a significant one for both teams.
Lakeside centre Michael Vigor is looking forward to now trying to lock away top spot this weekend.
“It just means that we are accomplishing a goal more than anything. We said first up that we wanted to be a top four team at the start of the year, then a top two team and now our last end goal for the regular season is to be the top team,” Vigor said.
“It just means that all our hard work and sacrifices with the job everyone has done from the coaching staff all the way through to the players is being rewarded to get top spot. That’s just when the fun begins but we will have to play well for that to happen still this weekend.”
Saturday night’s season-defining action then begins with Willetton hosting Perry Lakes at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
It’s a significant game for both teams with Willetton just simply needing to win to stay in the race to finish eighth. If they win, then they put the pressure right on the Giants and Eastern Suns as well.
With a win, Willetton will qualify no matter what. A loss and they will face a nervous wait for the other Saturday night contests.
It’s a potentially important game for Perry Lakes too. The Hawks can’t finish above Geraldton or Rockingham even with a win due to losing the season splits, but they can maintain fifth position with a victory.
Both teams enter the game in good form too with Willetton having won four straight to keep their finals hopes alive while Perry Lakes have won six of its last seven with the lone loss last Saturday night by a solitary point to Lakeside.
Also on Saturday night, the Cougars and Eagles close their regular seasons at Wally Hagan Stadium by playing one another.
Cockburn will have already played the Redbacks on Friday night and on Saturday night at home, will be celebrating the 250th game of the legend that is Gavin Field.
East Perth has now lost its past six matches but could at least climb above Cockburn with a win on Saturday night.
The Magic then host the Senators at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre with Mandurah trying to finish a disappointing season on a high with what would be a significant upset win.
They should regain Jerami Grace who was at the NBL Next Generation camp this week as they attempt to avoid finishing the season with nine straight losses and just the five wins.
The Senators, meanwhile, have a chance to still finish inside the top four if they win both their games this weekend to close out the regular season. They returned to some ominous form last Friday night too to beat Rockingham with Wani Swaka Lo Buluk back in the point guard role.
It’s another massive Saturday night contest when the Lightning host the Buccaneers at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Lakeside will have already played in Round 20 on Friday night in Rockingham while could determine how important this game is in the context of where they will finish at the end of the weekend.
But they could secure top spot potentially with a win while the Buccs are back on the road for the second straight week having beaten the Slammers and Magic by a combined 93 points last weekend.
They would be hoping to regain point guard Marcus Alipate for this road trip as well as they look to not only consolidate a top four position but also attempt to break into the top two which they can do if other results go their way.
Buccs centre Liam Hunt just hopes his team puts in two strong performances on the road heading into the finals no matter how the results fall.
“They are two massive games for us. Lakeside beat us at home too pretty handily in the second half and they are obviously are a really dangerous team right now,” Hunt said.
“And Warwick with their point guard back, they are really tough too and we didn’t play him while we were at home and they still gave us a big dogfight with their size and athleticism.
“But I think we’ll have a good game plan going into both games and it’s about us keeping on learning and playing hard. As long as we play as hard and as smart as we can then we’ll deal with whatever the results are.
“As long as we play hard and give our all and get beaten by a better side, then sometimes that happens. What’s important is that we come out of the weekend learning from our mistakes and play our best basketball heading into the finals.”
Then in Kalgoorlie, the Giants can’t afford a repeat of what happened in Eaton when they became the only team to lose to the Slammers in 2019.
The Giants must win on Saturday night on their home floor in order to reach the playoffs and then even if they win, they need to hope that both the Tigers and Eastern Suns don’t also win against the Hawks and Wolves respectively.
Goldfields did take care of business at home last week against Mandurah and need to do so again on Saturday night if they hope to return to the post-season for the first time since 2015.
But the Slammers have nothing to lose and will want to enjoy their trip to Kalgoorlie by knocking off the Giants for the second time in 2019.
The last game on Saturday night has the potential to decide plenty as well with the Wolves hosting the Eastern Suns.
Depending on other results, the Wolves could still need to win to potentially go first or stay second while if the Eastern Suns want to reach the finals, they simply must win.
The only way Kalamunda can stay in the playoffs with a loss is if the Tigers go down to the Hawks and the Giants lose to the Slammers. In that scenario they stay seventh.
Kalamunda can still make it with a loss and also a Willetton loss too as they hold the split over the Tigers but not the Giants.
Wolfpack coach Ben Ettridge will ensure that his team goes full out to win the game no matter what ends being at stake by the time of tip-off.
“We’ve done everything we can do and we’ve controlled our own destiny for most of the season,” Ettridge said.
“But probably the last five or six weeks we’ve had a couple get away from us that would have really cemented us in the top two so now we have to wait and see on other results to see if we still end up there.
“But again we’ve done everything we can do and now it’s about getting everyone healthy, feeling good and ready to go in that first round match up.
“At this stage of the year and Mark and I know each other really well, and we run some stuff that each other runs and we’ve shared ideas. So at this stage of the year, there’s not too many surprised and it comes down to the mental approach and being ready to play 40 minutes of basketball.
“We definitely don’t want to give them a free hit so we’ll do everything we can to finish off with a win and winning form is always good form so that’s what we want to take into the finals.”
The regular season then concludes on Sunday with another cracker between the Senators and Buccaneers at Warwick Stadium. What that game means to both and the make up of the top eight will be determined of the happenings of the previous two evenings.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 20
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Prestige Honda Cockburn Cougars – Belmont Oasis 8.30pm
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames v Lakeside Lightning – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Prestige Honda Cockburn Cougars v CMTG East Perth Eagles – Wally Hagan Stadium 7.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Print Sync South West Slammers – Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium 7.30pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – HBF Arena 8.00pm
Bethanie Warwick Senators v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Warwick Stadium 12.00pm