‘Confident’ Rockingham Flames women secure play-offs berth following double-header wins
With a play-offs berth sewn up, the Rockingham Flames women’s team heads into the final two rounds of the State Basketball League season full of confidence according to coach Keegan Crawford.
The Flames’ participation in the post season was on shaky ground after recent losses to the Perth Redbacks and Mandurah Magic, but wins last Friday and Saturday night over East Perth and Kalamunda respectively guaranteed a return to the play-offs for a second successive season.
Boasting one of the most talented rosters on paper, including no fewer than five players with WNBL experience, the Flames women have endured a tumultuous 2019 season, which has seen coach Craig Reynolds step down, a bout of illness sweep through the team, injuries to point guards Tayah Burrows and Janelle Adams, and the late additions of Darcee Garbin and Alex Ciabbatoni.
With two rounds remaining, the Flames occupy seventh position on the ladder with an 11-9 win/loss record following the 82-37 win over East Perth and 72-52 win over Kalamunda, and depending on results could still finish as high as fourth.
But Crawford said last weekend’s double-header win was a massive confidence builder for a team that is “peaking at the right time”.
“We’ve got Warwick this weekend and Lakeside in the last round and both games mean a ton to us, they’re massive in terms of our play-off seeding,” he said.
“Now that we as a coaching staff and group of players have had about a month together we’re really starting to roll. Our practices are starting to click, we’re on the same page, we’re getting girls in positions where they’re comfortable and we’re really peaking at the right time of year.”
The Flames led by 50 points mid-way through the third quarter against East Perth, which allowed Crawford to rest key players and get valuable minutes into Burrows and Adams, as well as younger players Jesni Cooper and Ashlyn Lee.
Chris Boag finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Maddie Allen added 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Garbin added 15 to the scoreboard in just 12 minutes on court.
The following evening against the Suns, Garbin, Allen and Ciabbatoni all scored 18 points, with Allen pulling down 15 rebounds in a best on court performance as the Flames won by 20.
Crawford said the win over Kalamunda showed his team could shoot poorly - the Flames hit just one three pointer from 20 attempts - but still dominate games with their defence, pace and the manner in which they utilise their bigger players.
“Kalamunda are historically a team that can shoot the lights out but we did a really good job defending the three point line, playing at a tempo we were comfortable with and then controlling and pounding the ball inside,” he said.
The Flames will be without Garbin for the final two rounds, with the 188cm forward due to travel to Phoenix, Arizona for an Australian Opals training camp ahead of the FIBA Asian Cup, but rather than a hindrance Crawford believes her absence can be covered and actually comes at a perfect time to tinker with his line-ups.
“It always is a loss when you lose a girl with Australian representative experience, and Darcee is a huge part of what we do,” he said.
“But we’re so deep at that position (forward) so we’ll still be bigger than most teams. Maddie is playing some really confident basketball and Chris is really coming along nicely. It gives us another look to see how we can take teams, and allows us to change our line-ups a little bit and it’s always fun experimenting with line-ups in this way.”
Lakeside leads the WSBL by two points with a game in hand over the chasing pack, but with only 10 points separating first and eighth place, Crawford believes “without a doubt” any team can beat anyone else on their day.
“If you look at the landscape of the league this year, the teams at the top are still very good basketball teams, but look across the results from random games and anyone can knock off anyone,” he said.
“When you look at the talent on our team, and it’s all coming together later in the season, we’re very confident in any play-offs series against who we’ll play.
“We could be getting (injured pair) Ella Kennedy and Paris Duffield back this week, so touch wood we should be getting a full squad together.
“I always subscribe to the theory we have to win every game that’s in front of us. If we take care of business with who’s in front of us each week I think we’ll be rewarded for it.”
The Flames take on the second-placed Warwick Senators on Friday at Warwick Stadium. When the sides last met in round 8, the Flames completed a rousing 79-72 come-from-behind win on the back of big games from Adams and Boag.
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