PLAYING away from home and as the lower seeds was no problem for the Mandurah Magic and Kalamunda Eastern Suns on Saturday with both winning their Game 1 quarter-final match up on the road to the Rockingham Flames and Willetton Tigers.
The 2018 SBL Finals began on Friday night with the first two Game 1 quarter-final match ups that saw the Perth Redbacks beat the Stirling Senators 92-67 and the Lakeside Lightning beat the Perry Lakes Hawks 81-75.
The other two Game 1 contests then took place on Saturday night starting at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the Grand Finalists of last year Mandurah Magic turning up the heat on the Rockingham Flames, winning 72-48.
The upsets continued with the lower teams winning on the road with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns beating the Willetton Tigers 72-65 at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
That all means that next Friday night, all four Game 2’s will take place with the Senators at home to the Redbacks while the Hawks host the Lightning, Magic host the Flames and the Eastern Suns play host to the Tigers.
If any of Stirling, Perry Lakes, Rockingham or Willetton are able to win, the deciding Game 3’s will be played at the Game 1 venues on Saturday night.
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The Saturday night Game 1 quarter-final action in the Women’s SBL began at Mike Barnett Sports Complex with the third ranked Flames hosting the sixth seeded Magic.
There was no indication of what was to come with Rockingham putting together a strong regular season on the back of a rebuilding year in 2017.
With the additions Maddie Allen and imports D’Lesha Lloyd and Taneisha Harrison they had a strong squad that 16-6 despite of dual championship winner Jacinta Bourne late in the campaign.
Mandurah had struggled into the playoffs at 11-11 on the back of injury issues right the way through losing Carly Boag early while Casey Mihovilovich missed a big chunk of the season and Bree Klasztorny is currently sidelined too.
But what took place on Friday was remarkable not so much in the actual result, but in the way it transpired.
The Flames just never got going whatsoever and looked more like the team that finished 2017 in second last place much more than the team that finished third in 2018.
The Magic did apply enormous pressure and took their game up another notch to help make that happen and in the end forced the Flames into 20 turnovers for the night and shooting 19/70 from the field, 4/25 from three-point range and just 6/11 from long range.
Mandurah didn’t exactly set things alight shooting-wise going 26/7 from the floor and 3/18 from beyond the arc, but they did hit 17/22 from the foul line, had 15 assists to 13 turnovers and outrebounded the Flames 67-53.
The Magic just looked switched on, particularly defensively, from the outset and it was the veteran Mihovilovich setting the tone as she chases that elusive championship. They raced to a 23-12 lead by quarter-time and really were never seriously threatened.
Any brief hints of a Rockingham comeback were stunted by poor and sloppy turnovers, and careless mistakes, and then bad looks and shots that might have been good looks but never looked like going on, particularly from imports Lloyd and Harrison.
Mandurah pulled away in the second half outscoring Rockingham 36 to 22 to win by 24 and put themselves in a strong position to advance to the semi finals with Game 2 at home on Friday night.
The difference in performance from the imports on either side was stark. Mandurah’s Regina Palusna (22 points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Anita Brown (18 points, eight boards, three steals) combined to shoot 15/34 from the field and 10/12 from the foul line.
Meanwhile, Rockingham’s Lloyd (12 points, nine rebounds) and Harrison (five points, four rebounds, four assists) shot a combined 7/36 from the field, 0/9 from downtown and 2/5 at the charity stripe.
Casey Mihovilovich also had 14 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists for the Magic despite shooting 4/19 from the field. Emma Klasztorny added 10 points, 17 rebounds, three assists and three steals in a huge performance too.
Maddie Allen finished with 11 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Flames with Ella Kennedy contributing seven points, six rebounds and three steals.
Flames coach Ryan Petrik wasn’t hiding from the performance of his team afterwards, but knows they have no choice but respond or go home next week.
“Mandurah were really good, first and foremost so credit where it’s due. They killed us everywhere but their imports went for 40 points and our two 7/36 from the field,” Petrik said.
“You can go through the rest of whatever you want, but we have two superstar imports going 7/36 and we are probably going to lose most games, in fact we probably would have lost to anyone if we played like that.
“The theory is they can bounce back next week, but if they show us that again then we are all going home and they are getting on planes back to Europe. The reality is with any team you are only as good as your best couple of players and our top two weren’t good in this game and Mandurah wiped the floor with us.”
The last Game 1 of the weekend then took place at Willetton Basketball Stadium and after having known they’d be playing one another for some weeks now, the Tigers and Eastern Suns were always likely to produce a fascinating contest.
It was a bit of a grind with neither team able to build any real momentum through the first half with Kalamunda leading 15-12 by quarter-time and then still being up 29-26 at the main break.
Some flow came into the game at both offensive ends in the second half as the tempo picked up, but it was the visiting Suns who held sway most of the way even managing to open up a 13-point lead at one stage before going on to win by seven.
It now gives the Eastern Suns a chance to wrap up the series this Friday night on their home floor and advance to the semi finals.
Alex Ciabattoni delivered the performance of the night for the Eastern Suns with 31 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals on shooting 12/19 from the field and 7/8 from the foul line.
She got good support from Jennie Rintala with 18 points and four rebounds with Rebecca Motroni contributing 11 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists, and Jorjah Smith seven points and three assists.
Leah Cotton top-scored for Willetton with 14 points while Emma Gandini had 11 points off the bench.
Sam Norwood contributed eight points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Tigers, Desiree Kelley eight points, three boards, three assists and three steals, and Tayla Hepburn eight points, three rebounds and two blocks.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1
GAME 1 (BEST OF 3)
Perth Redbacks (2) 92 defeated Stirling Senators (7) 67
Lakeside Lightning (1) 81 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks (8) 75
Rockingham Flames (3) 48 lost to Mandurah Magic (6) 72
Willetton Tigers (4) 65 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns (5) 72