Rockingham Flames ready and confident to take on local rivals Mandurah in WSBL play-offs
The Rockingham Flames must remain composed and not be drawn into needless niggle if they are to overcome Mandurah Magic in the women’s State Basketball League quarterfinals, says coach Keegan Crawford.
After finishing the WSBL regular season with a hard-fought, but deserved, 76-66 win over the table-topping Lakeside Lightning, the Flames set up a quarterfinal rematch against their 2018 conquerors starting Friday.
The Flames were the higher-ranked team in that series but were swept 2-0 by the Magic, and will hope to exact some revenge for that defeat after finishing seventh to draw the second-seeded local rival in week one of the post-season.
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Crawford credited his team with battling hard mid-to-late in the third quarter to wrest control of the game against Lakeside, after seeing a healthy first-quarter lead disappear in the second term.
“The girls were excellent, we battled into the mid-to-late in third quarter but we were unstoppable at that point,” he said.
“Xs and Os-wise our spacing was great, the girls did a great job of executing.
“In the last couple of weeks our effort and intensity has always been there but we’ve been trying to make some hero passes and plays, but we executed the right way and moved the ball how we want to move it and everyone is getting a bit of the piece, which is awesome.”
While the Flames were without Darcee Garbin, who was in the USA for an Opals training camp, her absence wasn’t felt as Chris Boag stepped up with 22 points and 7 rebounds to claim player of the match honours, while Alex Ciabbatoni added 22 points and Maddie Allen was excellent at both ends with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Ari Hetherington again proved her value, slotting into the starting five and putting in a big defensive effort.
“She’s an SBL starting-calibre player as she’s proven with us in other seasons, and her impact right now is massive,” Crawford said.
“She guards the other teams’ best perimeter players and can fight down low with the bigs. She’s a huge part of what we do.”
The Flames haven’t lost a game since they faced Mandurah on July 5, while the Magic are on their own winning run extending nine games back to a June 7 loss against the Flames, a run which has catapulted them up the table into second.
But something has to give on Friday at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Crawford said the team wouldn’t look at last season’s series between the sides “too much” as “they’re two completely different teams”.
“From a coaching staff perspective there is a little bit of saltiness there, and you don’t want to get knocked out by the same team two years in a row,” he said.
“Being Rockingham-Mandurah there’s that southern rivalry as well. They’ve done a fantastic job.”
Sticking to the mantra of taking the season a game at a time, which has served him well since taking over the Flames coaching position, Crawford believes his team’s “best basketball is still ahead of us”.
“Playing in Mandurah it’s always feisty and it’s a hostile place to play. We have a challenge cut out for us but the way we’re playing we’re very confident. With Darcee back we’ll be at full strength too,” he said.
“There’s a couple of keys (to victory). The biggest one is our mentality, not getting frustrated with what they day and sticking to what we do well, not getting baited into some of the chippiness of the game and trying to play at their tempo, just need to be better at what we do.
“(Taylor) Brown’s been killing it recently and you always have to have an eye out for Milo (Casey Mihovilovich) and the Klasztorny sisters.
“Milo has been the gold standard for guards in the league for so long, she has a court named after her. The Klasztorny sisters are the grit and grind, and Carly Boag is an ex-WNBL player and a stud, so they have a great starting line up.
“Mandurah is going to be tough, we don’t underestimate them. There’s a rivalry there and they beat us in our last showing, so they have that over us. But we’re always confident.”
The Flames take on Mandurah Magic at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre at 7pm on Friday. Game 2 will be at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Saturday August 10, with game 3 at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre at noon on the Sunday if required.
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