NO disrespect to the four teams eliminated in the quarter finals of the Men’s SBL, but the four teams left to battle it out in the semi finals are richly deserving and it sets up two tantalising match ups to determine the Grand Finalists of 2019.
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Goldfields Giants, Warwick Senators and Rockingham Flames all deserved to head into the finals in 2019 thinking that at their best and at full strength, they could certainly be capable of going all the way.
However, it wasn’t to be for those four and that leaves the Joondalup Wolves, Lakeside Lightning, Geraldton Buccaneers and the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks as the four remaining teams – all with high hopes of what the next three weeks could hold for them.
That sets the stage for two mouth-watering semi-final battles and it all gets underway on Saturday night at Active West Stadium with the Geraldton Buccaneers hosting Game 1 against the Lakeside Lightning.
Then at HBF Arena also on Saturday night, it’s a Grand Final rematch from last year with Game 1 seeing the Joondalup Wolves play host to the Perry Lakes Hawks.
The semi finals in the Men’s SBL begins on Saturday night in Geraldton with the Buccaneers hosting the Lightning.
The two teams were vying for top two positions right throughout the season and in the end Lakeside ended up finishing second at 20-6 while the Buccs were third at 19-7.
Lakeside then went on to defeat the Goldfields Giants in two games of the quarter finals with two solid performances while the Buccs were the only team forced into three games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Buccaneers did well to beat the Warwick Senators in Game 1 at Warwick Stadium but then were stunned on their home floor with the Senators winning to deciding the Game 3. Geraldton did manage to control most of that Game 3 to set up a return to the semi finals.
The match up harks back to the last time the teams met in the semi finals which was 2014 when the Lightning were defending champions but the Buccs managed to beat them to advance to the Grand Final where they would end up losing to the East Perth Eagles.
Despite being perennial contenders, the Buccaneers haven’t reached a Grand Final since while Lakeside hasn’t been to that last night since winning the 2013 championship, but that will change for one of them over the next eight days.
The regular season meetings between the teams saw Lakeside prevail in both encounters, winning by 10 points in Geraldton and then in the final round, catching fire to win 110-84 at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
There are incredible match ups to look at all across the floor but it will be a treat to watch, potentially for the last time, the two inspirational captains in Jarrad Prue and Mat Wundenberg go to war under the basket.
They have good help with their fellow bigs too and Geraldton’s Liam Hunt against Lakeside’s Michael Vigor is going to be pivotal as well.
The small forward match up between the Buccs’ Colter Lasher and Lightning’s Jobi Wall could also be crucial. They might be decidedly different players with Lasher better taking the ball to the rack and Wall a brilliant shooter.
There are young guns from either side that will be fascinating too with Lakeside’s Rowan Mackenzie locking horns with Geraldton’s Alex Ducas before both head away to college.
You then have quality point guards with Marcus Alipate from the Buccs and Kyle Armour from the Lightning not to mention sharpshooters on either side with Aaron Ralph and Jack Isenbarger.
Throw in Brayden Inger and Brendan Dinardo as well for Geraldton and Ben Lee, Nick Palleschi, Josh Davey and Jake Whately for Lakeside, and coaches Dayle Joseph and Dave Daniels have plenty to work with.
It shapes as a tremendous series and it’s a big chance for Geraldton to put the pressure back on Lakeside by winning Game 1 on their home floor.
Then starting with Game 1 at HBF Arena on Saturday night, it looms as one heck of a cracking contest between the Wolfpack and Hawks in a rematch from last year’s Grand Final.
It’s only fitting that the two teams get top meet in a semi-final series on the back of the Grand Final from last year and there’s no shortage of feeling between the two outfits heading into the battle.
There are certainly changes to the playing groups too from that Grand Final with Perry Lakes having added Shawn Redhage, Clint Steindl and Kyle Sovine with the biggest departures being Lochlan Cummings from that championship winning team.
Meanwhile, the Wolves have become stronger, deeper and more athletic with the additions of Earnest Ross, Kevin Davis and Ridell Camidge while MVP Jalen Billups and Brian Sullivan are no longer there from the team that reached that Grand Final.
The tactical battle between the two men who could very well lay claim to being the best coaches in the competition will be fascinating as well.
Matt Parsons teams, at Cockburn in 2016 and Perry Lakes in 2018, have beaten Ben Ettridge’s Joondalup sides in two of the past three Grand Finals, but had those been more than one-game match ups, it always would have been fascinating to see what adjustments the Wolves and Ettridge were able to make to try and turn the result around.
Now we get the opportunity to see that over what has all the hallmarks of being a three-game series.
It will be decided ultimately by the talent on the court, though, and that starts with the frontcourt contest with Kevin Davis, Rob Huntington and Damian Matacz from the Wolfpack, and Shawn Redhage, Brian Carlwell and Kyle Sovine from the Hawks.
The battle of forwards is going to be worth the price of admission all alone with Earnest Ross taking on Ben Purser while Wolfpack shooters Ridell Camidge, Trian Iliadis and Seb Salinas opposed to Perry Lakes’ Ryan Smith, Clint Steindl and Cooper Hamilton will be also be pivotal.
Point guards Ben Ironmonger and Mitch Clarke will have important roles to play too and anywhere you look on the floor, the teams look evenly matched and if you get the chance to get to this series, it’s hard to imagine it’s going to disappoint.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – SEMI FINALS GAME 1
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Lakeside Lightning – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks – HBF Arena 8.30pm