THE Willetton Tigers and Warwick Senators are the two hottest teams in the West Coast Classic as they lock horns on Friday night with one trying to maintain top spot and the other desperate to break into the top four.
The redeveloped Willetton Basketball Stadium will play host to the Round 7 West Coast Classic match up on Friday night with plenty on the line for both the Tigers and Senators.
Willetton comes into the game sitting in fifth position with a 6-3 record while Warwick are now in first place on a seven-game winning streak holding a 7-1 record.
With just three rounds now to go in the competition and with only the top four teams reaching the finals weekend, it’s games like this at this point of the West Coast Classic where the stakes really go up a notch.
The Tigers have largely flown under the radar but from their nine games, they have won six and been a genuine chance to win all of them having just been overrun by Lakeside, losing in overtime to Perry Lakes and at the buzzer to the Perth Redbacks.
It wouldn’t have taken much to go different for the Tigers to be 9-0 right now but they are 6-3 and need to keep winning if they want to play finals.
They are doing it with a good mix too. They have the strong leaders Andrew Black, Damien Scott and Lewis Thomas, but then there is Connor Mincherton, Travis Fee, Hayden Noordhoek, Scott Elder, Lachlan Evans and Michael Garbellini who are coming up big too.
But the job against the Senators is a significant one. They haven’t lost since the opening night to Perry Lakes and they have the deepest and most versatile, and athletic, squad in the West Coast Classic.
With Cody Ellis, Caleb Davis, Justin King, Ash Litterick and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk leading the way, and then Ethan Elliott, Alier Riak and Jarrod Hodge emerging, Mike Ellis has plenty at his disposal.
So the stage is set on Friday for the Tigers to either go closer to earning a finals spot or the Senators can get closer to securing a top two finish.
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There are two other matches in Round 7 of the West Coast Classic on Friday night too with the Cockburn Cougars hosting the South West Slammers at Wally Hagan Stadium.
The Cougars regained Seva Chan and Jaarod Holmes last week for the loss in Kalgoorlie, but they lost Luke Travers and Gavin Field. If they have all four this Friday, they’ll like their chances but it’s a Slammers team on a high after a thrilling road win in Kalamunda last Saturday night.
The other game on Friday night sees the East Perth Eagles play host to the Lakeside Lightning at Herb Graham Recreation Centre.
East Perth is a dangerous line-up led by Shaquille Maharaj and Kieran Berry so the Lightning will need to be on their game to get the win. It’s a win that lakeside needs too coming off a road loss to the Giants to leave them in third position at 6-2.
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That all leads into a monster Saturday night in Round 7 of the West Coast Classic starting in Geraldton with the Buccaneers hosting the Perry Lakes Hawks at Active West Stadium.
With Aaron Ralph, Mat Wundenberg and Carter Cook leading the way, with Brayden Inger continuing to emerge and Xavier Shaw proving a good recruit with youngsters like Johny Narkle stepping up, the Buccs are now playing well and have won their last couple.
They will be tough to overcome for the Hawks who make the trip needing to win after losing to the Joondalup Wolves last Friday night leaving them in second spot at 8-2.
Also on Saturday night, the Joondalup Wolves face a must-win game at home at HBF Arena against the East Perth Eagles. Again the Eagles won’t make it easy, but after losing in Rockingham last Friday and having lost three of their last five games, the Wolfpack can’t afford to drop another one.
The Lakeside Lightning back up their Friday night game against East Perth by hosting the Mandurah Magic on Saturday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre, again needing to win as the race for top four spots heats up.
The Warwick Senators return home to Warwick Stadium fresh off playing Willetton on Friday night to host the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
The Suns are looking to bounce back from a surprise home loss to the South West Slammers while the Senators just need to keep winning to retain that top two position.
The South West Slammers also back up their game on Friday against Cockburn by heading back to Eaton Recreation Centre on Saturday night to host the Goldfields Giants.
It’s a long trip for the Giants to take as they look to take their form from home in Kalgoorlie where they have just beaten the Wolves and Lightning on the road. If they do, then finals aren’t even quite out of the equation should they win their remaining matches.
Lastly on Saturday night is another pivotal battle with a team trying to stay in contention and another looking to remain in the top four as the Rockingham Flames host the Perth Redbacks at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
The Flames kept their hopes alive improving to 5-4 with an upset home win over the Wolves last Saturday night on the back of 45 points from Jackson Hussey.
They will need to win all their remaining matches to remain any hope of finishing in the top four.
The Redbacks will need to keep winning too having now played their last home game of the West Coast Classic to sit in fourth position at 7-3.
But coach CJ Jackson likes the way the Redbacks are situated and is confident they can take care of business to win their last three games and let the cards fall where they may.
“I think it’s a nice position now with three weeks to go and we need to control our destiny, but our destiny does rely a little bit on a few of the other teams winning or losing now,” Jackson said.
“But we just have to do what we can and take care of business on our end, and see what happens at the end. But all in all if you have a look at where we’re at now, I think we’ve done pretty good and we have a good group.
“They are starting to run the structures that I’ve put in place better and I just think that I’m really confident of what lies ahead for us.”
Round 7 in the West Coast Classic continues on Sunday with the Mandurah Magic hosting the Goldfields Giants at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, and the Kalamunda Eastern Suns hosting the Rockingham Flames at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – MEN
East Perth Eagles v Lakeside Lightning – Herb Graham Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Cockburn Cougars v South West Slammers – Wally Hagan Stadium 8.30pm
Willetton Tigers v Warwick Senators – Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.30pm
Geraldton Buccaneers v Perry Lakes Hawks – Active West Stadium 5.00pm
Joondalup Wolves v East Perth Eagles – HBF Arena 7.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Mandurah Magic – Lakeside Recreation Centre 7.00pm
Warwick Senators v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Warwick Stadium 7.00pm
South West Slammers v Goldfields Giants – Eaton Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Rockingham Flames v Perth Redbacks – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Goldfield Giants – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 12.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Rockingham Flames – Ray Owen Sports Centre 2.00pm