Rockingham Flames find spark in impressive SBL wins over Perry Lakes Hawks
The Rockingham Flames fired a warning shot at the rest of the State Basketball League last night with the men’s and women’s teams registering impressive wins without key personnel.
On an emotional night that saw the retirement of the late Anthony Exeter’s number 8 playing jersey in front of his family, friends and former teammates, the Flames women took nearly three quarters to hit their stride in their 85-72 win over Perry Lakes, while the men’s team came out all guns blazing against last season’s champion Hawks to run away with a 107-90 victory.
And each side did the job minus star recruits Darcee Garbin and Greg Hire.
As she did throughout 2018, centre Maddie Allen stood tall for the Flames registering 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, Paris Duffield and co-captains Ella Kennedy and Chelsea Petrik added 11 points each, while Chris Boag grabbed 13 rebounds to go with 7 points, and Janelle Adams dished out 6 assists to go with 8 points.
Coach Craig Reynolds said his side was rusty in the opening exchanges and it wasn’t until after half time they got into a rhythm offensively.
“We settled after half time and we found our identity a bit better in the second half,” he said.
“I thought our defence was really good in the second half and that launched our offensive gameplan from there. We changed tempo a bit, sped the game up a little and they couldn’t go with us.”
Rebecca Benson’s 27 points, including six from eight beyond the arc, kept the Lady Hawks within touching distance and despite “missing the scout” on her, Reynolds said he was happy with his side’s work on the boards and its ability to keep star import Jamie Cherry relatively quiet.
“We had our scouters look at Benson, she was the girl on the ball we wanted to stop scoring and she lit us up,” he said.
“We missed the scout on her a few times and she was good enough to make her shots and keep them in the game. But other than that we did a good job on Cherry, we rebounded really well, and in the second half our bigs found post touches and we scored out of that, which was good.”
Despite the positives, Reynolds said his team had improvements to make and it would be hard to get a proper read on the league until about eight weeks into the season.
“There was definitely good stuff we have to take out of the game, but we weren’t good in a lot of areas,” Reynolds said.
“A lot of teams don’t have pieces at the moment and they’re coming in. We can’t judge where we are against the rest of the competition until eight weeks in. We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to get better but it’s a great start.”
In the men’s game, the Flames went some way to avenging last season’s three-game semifinal series loss to the eventual champions, with the side’s accuracy from three point range leaving the Hawks with no riposte early in the contest.
Captain Ryan Godfrey was instrumental in the 17-point win, hitting five of 10 from three on his way to a 27 point, 9 assist night, while Luke Travers and Josh Ritchart each helped themselves to 22 points and 9 and 10 rebounds respectively.
The Flames’ fast tempo, quick ball movement and deadly accuracy overwhelmed the Hawks in the first half, with the gap at the main interval an imposing 24 points.
Coach Ryan Petrik admitted his side took their foot off the pedal and tried to conserve the lead in the second half, but overall was happy with a much better showing than last week’s loss to Geraldton.
He especially highlighted the first 17 minutes of the match, which he said he was “not sure how much better we can play than that”.
“It was good to see us play how we played all pre-season,” Petrik said.
“I said to a few people after the game the Geraldton game ‘that just wasn’t us’, it hadn’t been us the entire pre-season. Last night was much more how we’ve been working the last five months so it was good to find what we’ve been working on.”
On his side’s up tempo, fast passing style, Petrik said all the players had bought into his and assistant Andrew Cooper’s concepts to hit opposing teams hard and fast.
“There’s always positives in defeat and if you were Perry Lakes scouting the Geraldton game you’ve got no read on us at all,” he said.
“We were totally different last night so the scout would’ve gone out the window pretty quick. We’ve been adamant in our style, how fast we want to play, but there’s concepts behind it all.
“A lot of coaches say ‘just play fast’, but we’ve told the guys to play fast and then shown them how to do it so they’re playing out our concepts. If we can get that pace going with 1400 people in the crowd they’re going to keep coming back.”
Petrik said the strong home support was potentially worth an extra 20 points per game and hoped fans would turn Mike Barnett Sports Complex into a “cauldron” throught 2019.
“We want to play a really entertaining style of basketball if we can help it. I told the boys pre-game if you give up 31 offensive rebounds again you’re going to get booed off the court, if you give the ball away 24 times they (the fans) are not going to come back,” he said.
“If we play a style that’s attractive to watch and gives you wins fans will keep coming back and they’ll give us a bonus 15-20 points each week and the home court will become a cauldron. The boys did exactly that and the crowd got right behind them, which is great.”
The Flames travel to Cockburn to take on the Cougars at Wally Hagan Stadium from 5pm next Saturday, March 30.
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