Rockingham Flames men to bring play-off heat after win over ladder-leaders
Ryan Petrik hopes his Rockingham Flames players take some extra motivation from last year’s heartbreaking semifinal loss to Perry Lakes into Saturday night’s game one quarterfinal showdown against the same opponent.
But he doesn’t want it to be a distraction.
The Flames men’s team tuned up for the post-season with an impressive 21-point win over the then ladder leading Lakeside Lightning last Friday, but it came at a cost with Petrik confirming veteran guard Brad Robbins had ruptured his Achilles tendon in the win.
Robbins’ injury cast a cloud over an otherwise outstanding night for the club, with Petrik running out of superlatives describing his side’s victory to the Sound Telegraph.
But when quizzed on whether last season’s semifinal series loss to the Hawks would hang over the team going into the series opener, he responded with a curt “hopefully not”.
“You play each series on its merit,” Petrik said.
“It doesn’t matter what happens, we could beat them by 100 points in both games, they’re still going to be the 2018 champions. We can’t take back last year.
“Hopefully it provides extra motivation but if you start worrying about about last year you’re taking your eye off this year, and this year is the only thing we can control.”
Petrik said the slick passing and swift transition that punctuated the 94-73 win over the Lightning was “fun to coach” and a return the the style of basketball the team wanted to play but had been restricted from doing due to missing a host of key players in recent weeks.
“All those doubleheaders in a row with all those guys injured, we weren’t able to play with the pace we’ve been used to because we were low on bodies,” he said.
“Having doubleheaders everywhere meant we had to preserve energy so it (our style of play) became very sticky, our speed slowed right down.
“Getting Josh Ritchart back, Justin Beard back, Ryan Godfrey back, Luke Travers back, there’s been more of a focus (on the faster game style) at practice and reinforcing it during film.
“They played beautifully offensively. I don’t know how you guard it when they play like that. With that pace, that spacing, that ball movement - it’s very fun to coach.”
The Flames’ quick transition from defence to offence exploited the Lightning’s zonal marking system, seeing them outnumber their opponents on the break to create clear paths to the basket or force fouls.
Chudier Pal and Greg Hire were also dominant in the paint against Lakeside’s switch action defence, posting up opponents to create shots and dominating on the glass with 10 offensive boards between them.
Petrik said he felt the team was back to where it was six to eight weeks ago, which was more pleasing to him than knocking off the top team and ending its eight-game winning streak.
“We got back to playing our brand of basketball that we were playing really well six to eight weeks ago; that was more pleasing because our offence had really dried up with the guys missing and the schedule we had,” he said.
The team welcomed Ritchart back from an eight game lay-off with a calf injury, with the American big’s ability to play inside and stretch the floor a big reminder of his value ahead of the play-offs.
In just 18 minutes on court, Ritchart hit 4-6 from three point range on his way to 14 points, while fellow import Caleb White continued his impressive recent form with a 20-point 10-rebound double-double.
“Seeing us stand up against the hottest team in the league - our defence stood up and kept them to 73 but more importantly our offence woke up without Travers, with JR (Ritchart) on minutes restrictions - was really pleasing,” Petrik said.
The Flames beat the Hawks twice during the regular season, but the sides match-up evenly and Petrik said those wins - a 107-90 win in round 2 and 86-62 round 9 victory - counted for nothing in August.
“They’re very similar to us - a lot of long limbs, a lot of three point shooting, quality bigs inside and some NBL champions,” Petrik said.
“We beat them 2-0 in-season and both times handily, but finals is a totally different game. The weekend starts at 0-0 and they are the defending champs. Neither team is going to bow out quietly.
“It should be a helluva series.”
The Flames host the Hawks at Mike Barnett Sports Complex at 7pm on Saturday night. Game 2 will be at Bendat Basketball Centre on Friday August 9 from 8.30pm, with game 3 at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on the Saturday at 8pm if required.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails