Rockingham Flames run hot in romp to SBL championship
A season that started with high expectations that at times didn’t look being met has finished with the Rockingham Flames women’s team lifting the State Basketball League championship.
The Flames were far too hot for the Warwick Senators to handle at Bendat Basketball Centre last Friday, extending their season-ending winning streak to nine games in an 85-56 triumph in the WSBL showpiece to grab the silverware from seventh position on the ladder.
With Alex Ciabbatoni running the show from point guard and Chris Boag and grand final MVP Maddie Allen dominant in the paint, the Flames led by double figures at every change on their way to a third championship since 2014.
The Flames showcased their very best offensively and defensively throughout, running up the scoreboard with 32 points in the second quarter and restricting the Senators to single figures scoring in the first and fourth quarters.
Coach Keegan Crawford said his team’s intensity on defence early on opened the game up allowed it to run away with the game in the second quarter.
“Our defence ignited our offence and so many girls played their roles,” he said.
“The last month or so we’ve tried to increase our tempo and have wanted to pound the basketball inside and play through our post as much as we can because we have athletic bigs that like to get up and go.
“We looked great in transition and then our secondary actions - posting up or pick and roll - was probably our best offensive weapon.”
Crawford said he also drew on his experience from the 2014 grand final to make early frequent rotations to allow players to stay fresh and play a high tempo game.
“We rotated pretty heavily because I remember back to 2014 with Ryan (Petrik) and our first title when after two minutes Sami Whitcomb was asking for a sub because the adrenaline got her.
“We tried to sub pretty heavily early because the girls would have that adrenaline through them and would get more than they normally would and I think we did a good there.”
The grand final triumph caps a remarkable journey for the Flames, who parted ways with rookie coach Craig Reynolds after just 12 games and appointed 23-year-old Crawford.
Now the youngest championship coach in SBL history, Crawford preferred to think about the team effort and, while full of praise for his star quartet - especially Boag and Allen who each scored 17 points and pulled down double digit rebounds - said the contributions of Chelsea Petrik, Tayah Burrows, Ari Hetherington and Ella Kennedy couldn’t be understated.
“I think it’s pretty special for the whole community and the playing group,” he said.
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