Rockingham Flames men claim confidence-boosting win over Joondalup, but women rolled by rampant Lady Wolfpack
It was a night of contrasting fortunes for the Rockingham Flames at Joondalup’s HBF Arena last night, with the men enjoying a confidence-boosting six-point win over the Wolves, while an illness-riddled women’s side was dominated on every stat and swept away.
The top-of-the-table clash between the Flames women and the Lady Wolfpack was billed as a heavyweight bout between two sides considered among the early season championship contenders, but it was an anticlimactic affair, as illness deprived the Flames of Maddie Allen, while the influential Ella Kennedy and Chris Boag succumbed to injury and illness during the contest.
After a promising opening quarter, the Flames managed just five points in the second to trail 24-40 at the main break.
Without their main bigs in Allen and Boag, the Flames had no counter to the board dominance of the Wolves, who pulled down 63 rebounds to the Flames’ 33, led by Perth Lynx centre Kayla Steindl (18 points, 11 rebounds), player of the match Amy Kinder (15 points, 17 rebounds) and Amber Land (8 points, 14 rebounds).
Janelle Adams toiled hard for 14 points, while Tayah Burrows, Rhianna Klisura and Ariana Hetherington each saw extended court time with Boag (10 points, 5 rebounds) and Kennedy only managing 17 and 13 minutes respectively.
While the final score ballooned out to 54-84, coach Craig Reynolds was philosophical about his first defeat as an SBL head coach.
“We matched them well in the first quarter and played really well, but illness has gone right through our team in the past couple of weeks and that robbed us of Maddie and then a couple of players as the game went on,” he said.
“One loss from our opening four games... I probably would have taken that at the start of the season and we’re still in a really good position with Darcee Garbin still to arrive.”
In the men’s contest, Caleb White, Josh Ritchart and Greg Hire, back on his old stomping ground, were instrumental as the Flames recorded an impressive 98-92 win against a Wolves team stacked with talent.
The Flames raced out to an early 8-2 lead and were never headed, despite the best efforts of former Perth Wildcats guard Earnest Ross (33 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Davis (22 points).
The Flames held a two-point advantage at half-time but came out firing early in the third to open up a 10-point gap, with the lead fluctuating between 10 and two points for the rest of the game, much to coach Ryan Petrik’s exasperation.
“We went into the fourth (quarter) not able to find a bucket to save our lives. We were looking a million dollars at one point but a minute and a half later we looked the worst basketball team of all time,” he said.
“We had them out to 10 points, then suddenly it (the lead) was three again and it was like ‘what just happened?’ That’s what a good team will do to you and they’re an elite team and have been elite for years.
“We went into a time out, drew something up and our guys came down and did something crazy to put it back out to six points.”
Ritchart was his usual hustling self, bossing the paint on his way to 26 points, and while White’s deft touch from beyond the arc helped him to 17 points, he was equally impressive defensively, with his strip off Ross in the dying seconds ending any lingering Wolves hopes of a comeback.
Hire showed all the experience one would expect from a 10-year NBL veteran, taking control of the ball when the Wolves were looking to strategically foul and draining his shots from the line despite the best efforts of the vocal home crowd to put him off.
He finished with 20 points - nine coming from 11 attempts at the charity stripe - and 14 rebounds, while Chudier Pal added 14 and skipper Ryan Godfrey 10.
Petrik was pleased with the win but said small improvements week-to-week were just as important as the two points.
“It was a good win, but it’s round 6. We’ll certainly take it but as long as we improve by 2 or 3 per cent each week that’s more important,” he said.
“We held them to 23 per cent from three, which is phenomenal considering how well they’ve been shooting the three (this season). But then Earnest Ross gets off the chain for 33. We wanted to make him drive at us and he did and killed us, so maybe that was some poor coaching by me.”
He also praised the high skill level and shot making ability of both teams.
“Some of the shots both teams hit... Caleb White landed a big three when we just couldn’t get anything going, and if that missed and they’d come down and scored they’d have gone in front. That’s why you recruits guys of that talent.”
The Flames men improved to 5-2 on the season and moved into third place, behind Geraldton and Joondalup, while the women’s first loss saw them move to 3-1 and slip to fourth.
The Flames face Lakeside Lightning at Lakeside Recreation Centre on Friday night, before hosting Cockburn Cougars at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Saturday night.
The women tip off at 6pm, with the men’s game to follow at 8pm.
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