Rockingham Flames coach hots up over calls in loss to Warwick, but unavailability of key players of bigger concern
The Rockingham Flames will seek discussions with the State Basketball League this week in the wake of a string of controversial decisions that turned their match against Warwick last Friday night.
The Flames led the Senators by 10 points early in the third quarter before a number of unsportsmanlike and technical fouls “paraded Stirling to the free throw line”, which handed them the lead and the ascendency on the way to a 94-85 win.
Coach Ryan Petrik couldn’t hide his frustration when talking to the Sound Telegraph yesterday, saying a number of the decisions left him and his players bewildered, with one official especially set to draw the club’s ire.
“We got up 10 early in the third and then the refs got involved and that was the end of it for us,” Petrik lamented.
“We lost our way from there. (Ryan) Godfrey got an unsportsmanlike, (Brad) Robbins got two techs, I got a technical foul for just turning around and looking at the crowd, not saying a word - no words, no gestures, just turned around and I got teed up for that.
“We went from up 10 to down five and from there it was game over...we’ll certainly seek clarification on some of those calls because it had a massive impact on the game.”
Just as importantly, Petrik said, the Flames ran out of steam and couldn’t match it with a full-strength Stirling outfit over 40 minutes.
Also having a massive impact was the returning Wani Swaka Lo Buluk for Stirling.
The 18-year-old guard, fresh from turning his back on a US college offer and inking a three-year deal with the Perth Wildcats, put up a career best 28/11/4 stat line from 38 minutes on court.
Annoyance with the officials adds to a growing list of frustrations for Petrik, who again bemoaned the absence of key players and having only had his best team available for two games out of 25 on the eve of the club’s final game of the regular season.
The Flames were vocal about competing for the championship prior to the SBL season, but given the team’s run with players being unavailable Petrik said he wasn’t even thinking about whether they got home court advantage in the quarterfinals.
Petrik’s side occupies fourth spot, which would afford them home court advantage in the first round of play-offs, but could fall to sixth depending other on results.
“We just want to see our whole team on the court together at this point, we don’t really care who we play,” he said.
“If we can’t get guys used to playing with one another it won’t make a difference whether we’re home or away.
“It’s going to be interesting when we’ve got everyone back. Hopefully we haven’t left it too late. Clearly on paper we look at a championship as achievable... but each week we have to filter in a new guy, find someone to replace someone who’s been taken out, put someone else in. It’s a mess.
“We found really good imports and they were with us in February and Greg Hire was available three weeks into the season. We were always going to be patchy early in the season we thought, with guys missing, but figured by June/July we’d have everyone available but we don’t.
“Here we are after round 19 and we’ve still played two games out of 25 with our best five guys on the court. You understand injuries come and go, but two of 25 is incredible.”
Petrik said while he’d never experienced “a season like this”, the similarities between this and the 2016 season at the helm of the Flames women’s team were “eerily similar”.
“With the 2014/15 women’s teams we went 50-4 across two years. We had some really good players but they just never missed games.
“The following season we had our best team ever on paper but we could never get them on the court together and we lost. This 2019 men’s season is becoming eerily similar to the 2016 women’s team - megastar talent that never play a game together.”
Import Josh Ritchart is a chance to suit up on Friday against Lakeside Lightning after missing the past eight games with a calf injury, but Luke Travers will miss another game despite returning from the USA.
Petrik said he was keen to get game time into Ritchart ahead of the play-offs, but knows he, Travers and Caleb White will all take niggles into the post-season.
“While they’ll be available, Ritchart, LT and Caleb are all carrying concerning injuries. Caleb is not back to 100 per cent (following a quad injury) and is progressing very slowly but we’ve had to play him too many minutes.
“We can’t let him rest...we’ve had to flog a guy, play a guy more, than we would’ve liked because other guys haven’t been available.”
The ladder-leading Lightning prevailed 96-94 when the sides faced off in round 7. Tip-off on Friday is 8.30pm.
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