THE Goldfields Giants were one of the stories of 2015 with their stunning finish to the Men’s SBL season and despite losing two stars, they appear to have replaced them well and are looking to extend their winning run to five during Week 4 action.
Goldfields made a horror start to 2015 losing its opening eight games but things started to come together as not only did they make the playoffs, but they upset the second placed Geraldton Buccaneers in the quarter finals before falling short against the South West Slammers in the semis.
Import Jay Bowie was a big part of that success and so was Mathiang Muo. Both have not returned in 2016, but their replacements Kenny Manigault (32.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.0 steals), Daniel Goodluck (10.3 points) and Ezra Nikora (7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds) have had good starts.
With Jacob Holmen continuing his tremendous form from last season with 29.3 points and 17.0 rebounds a game the Giants have done well to bounce back from an opening week loss to the Perry Lakes Hawks, to have beaten the East Perth Eagles, Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Willetton Tigers since.
That sees them on a three-game winning run heading into Week 4 where they take on the South West Slammers at Eaton Recreation Centre on Saturday night, and then the Mandurah Magic at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Sunday.
The round begins on Friday night with five huge matches.
The Willetton Tigers (2-2) play the Cockburn Cougars (3-1), the Joondalup Wolves (2-1) battle the Perth Redbacks (2-2), the South West Slammers (1-2) take on the Mandurah Magic (1-2), the Stirling Senators (2-2) face the Kalamunda Eastern Suns (0-5) and East Perth Eagles (1-3) host the Perry Lakes Hawks (2-1).
Then also on Saturday night, the Perry Lakes Hawks host the Stirling Senators, the Rockingham Flames (3-2) play the Lakeside Lightning (2-2) and the Cockburn Cougars face the Geraldton Buccaneers (3-1).
The other game on Sunday features the Willetton Tigers up against the Geraldton Buccaneers at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
The Magic and Slammers both take on one another before facing the Giants Saturday night and Sunday afternoon respectively.
Goldfields coach Michael Haney is hopeful of coming away with two wins but his focus is first on South West and its star guard Tre Nichols with Clive Weeden sure to lift the Slammers on return from a knee reconstruction.
“Hopefully Mandurah wears them out Friday night and I’d like to scout that game because they are our next two opponents, but unfortunately we live too far away,” Haney told SBL Slam on Sonshine FM 98.5.
“Obviously Tre Nichols is a key for the Slammers and I think they are struggling a bit, but they are due to hit some shots. Corey’s due, Wade Hitchcock is always a capable shooter. We’ll just go out and play our game, and we know they will be a well prepared team as they always are.
“Hopefully we can come away with the win on Saturday night and then on Sunday face the big boys of Mully, Ben Smith and have a more physical game. Hopefully we can get two, if not we’ll take the split and be happy, and I’m ready for it.”
While the Giants would have liked to keep Bowie from leaving for the Tigers in 2016, their focus was on keeping the services of forward Holmen and it’s easy to see why based on the way he has started his second season.
Haney is confident he can step up further against some of the true bigs in the league.
“He plays hard and he’s an incredible athlete, and he came back even better this year. He is just hard to stop as a three-four man who can even guard the five if he has to,” he said.
“He is a tough match up and it could cause some troubles when we face some of the bigger boys from Cockburn and Perry Lakes, but until then we’ll deal with it week by week. So far, so good.”
Manigault might not have arrived with the reputation as a pure shooter like what Bowie provided in 2015, but he is shooting 53.5 per cent from the field after four games and averaging 32 points.
Add that in with his defensive prowess and Haney is excited by what he’s providing.
“He gives us that defensive stopper and that guy who takes pride in defence. If you can get an import that does that then you are off flying,” Haney said.
“It was a bit of a worry signing him and he didn’t have the shooting numbers that Jay did, but I asked his college coach why he didn’t shoot threes and he said he didn’t have to because nobody could stop him.
“We are seeing that now. He has that quick Euro step to get to the rack and he’s getting 15 or 16 free-throw shots a game. He is just an incredible athlete and I don’t know how he does what he does.”
Week 4 Men’s SBL Fixtures
Willetton Tigers v Cockburn Cougars, Willetton Basketball Stadium 8.30pm
Joondalup Wolves v Perth Redbacks, Joondalup Basketball Stadium 8.30pm
South West Slammers v Mandurah Magic, Eaton Recreation Centre 8.30pm
Stirling Senators v Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Warwick Stadium 8.30pm
East Perth Eagles v Perry Lakes Hawks, Morley Sport and Recreation 8.30pm
South West Slammers v Goldfields Giants, Eaton Recreation Centre 7.30pm
Cockburn Cougars v Geraldton Buccaneers, Wally Hagan Stadium 7.30pm
Perry Lakes Hawks v Stirling Senators, Bendat Basketball Centre 8pm
Rockingham Flames v Lakeside Lightning, Mike Barnett Sports Complex, 8.30pm
Mandurah Magic v Goldfields Giants, Mike Barnett Sports Complex 12pm
Willetton Tigers v Geraldton Buccaneers, Willetton Basketball Stadium 12pm