They didn’t win but Rockingham’s top women’s basketball team tuned up for the NBL1 West finals this weekend with a finals-like battle against another of the contenders, Warwick Senators. The Flames went down 93-91 on Friday night but the compelling nature of the road game will have served them well ahead of their challenging qualifying final against the top-seeded Cockburn Cougars at Wally Hagan Stadium this Saturday. Among the positives at Warwick was Rockingham’s hot start away from home and their refusal to roll over even when Warwick held a seven-point advantage in the final minutes. The Flames led by 11 at quarter-time and 16 at the main break, having been out by as much as 18 points during the second quarter. But a 12-point run in the third quarter swung the game the other way as Warwick piled on 31 points for the quarter and kept their opponents to just 11 to hit the front. Tayah Burrows opened a pulsating last term with a three-point play for Rockingham and when Opal Mader scored as well, the Flames had regained the lead. Warwick’s Chloe Forster then dropped the next eight points on her own to push the Senators out to their biggest lead, but the Flames still refused to go away. Casey Samuels pulled it back to a one-point game with a three-pointer in the final minute but Warwick’s Stacey Barr was able to ice the game at the foul line. Samuels was Rockingham’s top scorer with 28 points, along with four rebounds and three assists. Burrows added 20 points, nine boards and three assists, and Bendigo Spirit WNBL signing Mehryn Kraker 19 points and seven assists. Barr was the strongest of the Senators, delivering 27 points, five rebounds and three assists. Rockingham’s opponents this Saturday have been the yardstick all season, having dropped just two games in 2023. The Cougars comfortably accounted for the Flames in their only clash back in April. The winner will advance directly to a preliminary final, while the loser will get a second chance via a home court semifinal next week.