IT is amazing how often it happens. No matter the sport, no matter the level it is almost guaranteed that if a club makes a coaching change their team will come out and win and that’s what happened with the Rockingham Flames against the Mandurah Magic on Friday night.
Having had Ryan Petrik at the helm from 2009-2018 which included winning two championships from three Grand Final appearances, the Flames have already had two coaches in the space of 13 games since he moved on to coach the Rockingham men in 2019.
Craig Reynolds was a well-credentialed coach and appeared an astute appointment in 2019 by the Flames. But things never quite clicked over the first 12 games with Rockingham sitting at 6-6 and the club bit the bullet this week and parted company with Reynolds.
That meant that 23-year-old Keegan Crawford took over on Friday night having been assistant to Petrik in recent years and despite his age, having developed his coaching including a stint at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.
With Petrik sitting beside him to offer some guidance, Crawford was in charge for the first time on Friday night and got the desired response from his talented Flames playing group.
They raced to a 12-0 lead in a stunning opening to the game against a Magic team that made them look decidedly ordinary in the quarter finals last year despite Rockingham finishing the regular season in second spot and Mandurah seventh.
The Flames continued on with the job to lead 21-2 with Darcee Garbin, Maddie Allen and Christina Boag taking on a physical and intimidating approach that Mandurah could do little about especially since the departure of their own import centre, Ginka Palusna.
Rockingham went on to win the game 68-54 and now both teams have short turnarounds to play on Saturday night with the Flames taking on the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and the Magic to host the Lakeside Lightning.
With Rockingham having made the coaching change to release Reynolds following last week’s loss to Willetton, it’s always a great unknown how a team will respond especially when your replacement coach is just 23 years of age like is the case with Crawford.
However, he has worked with the team for a number of years already and has built up that respect and understanding with them, and he got the best possible response from the group on Friday night.
It was Maddie Allen, Christina Boag, Janelle Adams and then captain Chelsea Petrik firing early to set up the 12-0 lead. Garbin continued to be a strong presence but was getting plenty of support as the Flames led 21-2 and then still 23-6 by quarter-time.
Rockingham went on to lead 32-9 and the damage was done, and the game effectively won but to the credit of the Magic, they did outscore the Flames the rest of the way 45-36.
That showed some grit from a Magic team that has reached the past two Grand Finals but is now down to one import and for the second straight game, Delany Junkermeir worryingly went scoreless from four shots and 18 minutes of court time.
Casey Mihovilovich, fresh off her match-winning display late against Cockburn last Friday night, refused to give up and produced another standout display for Mandurah with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Kelly Bailey added 11 points, three rebounds and two steals, Jemma Gatti seven points, Carly Boag six points and 10 rebounds, and Bree Klasztorny six points and four boards.
But by the time they started to play better, Rockingham had the game sewn up and Darcee Garbin finished with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Christina Boag added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Flames with Maddie Allen producing nine points, 10 boards and four blocked shots, Janelle Adams eight points and four rebounds, and Ella Kennedy seven points, seven boards, six assists and three steals.
It’s a big win for Rockingham who steady at a 7-6 record with Alex Ciabattoni to soon join their team.
While Magic coach Craig Watts takes heart from the way his team responded from the slow start, he knows they aren’t going to win too many games if they fall 21-2 down early on.
“We got off to a real slow start obviously and scoring six for the quarter is not ideal. It felt like to us that the girls were a bit intimidated from the size that they had inside and I think they were put off a little bit from that.” Watts said.
“We’re also just not knocking shots down at the end of the day and it’s hurting us early in the games.
“Once we got past that and they started to recognise where the openings were, we created a lot more opportunities for ourselves and showed that we were better than we showed in that first period. We outscored them for the last three periods.”
Watts was at least buoyed by the fact that the Magic continued to fight through that slow start to win the final three quarters against Rockingham to take a degree of momentum at least into Saturday night’s clash with the Lightning.
“You want to finish strongly at the end of the day going into your next game. We tried a few different things in the back end of that half as well just to see what we could do to turn it around,” he said.
“We took a couple of gambles playing some different players out there with an eye to seeing what we had available looking forward to tomorrow and other games as well.
“With the roster we have, we need to keep developing these young girls and by putting them into those situations and seeing how they handle that is definitely a positive. That should set us up going forward and we’re still in the mix going forward, we’re still chasing that top eight spot.”
Watts is under no illusion as to challenge of taking on Lakeside even on their home floor on Saturday night in their first chance to host the Lightning since last year’s Grand Final.
He does feel like teams have really made an extra effort to take on the Magic this year given they have reached the past two Grand Finals, so Watts is looking forward to being the hunted again against the defending champions on Saturday night even though it’s a significant challenge.
“The good thing is that I feel like we’re going into games being the hunted after making the Grand Final the last two years, but this game it’s a game where that won’t be the case. It’s an opportunity for us to go against the best and see where we’re at,” Watts said.
“Craig’s brought in another good import and we’ll put the challenge to the girls, and see how they handle that. But I think playing a physical game like this one will prove to be a bit of a bonus for us. That will set us up a little bit better to be ready for the Lakeside game.
“They’ve only dropped two games for the year to date and they are setting the standard again for sure. It’s a good challenge and they got hold of us back in Round 1 but it was only one and-a-bit quarters that were pretty average from our standard. For the rest of it we held our own.
“It’s no different in this game, we have to play 40 minutes and unless you do that against any team in the league these days, you won’t come out on top. We’re struggling for periods in games at the moment and it’s hurting us badly.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 13
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 94 defeated Schweigen East Perth Eagles 43
Lakeside Lightning 64 defeated Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks 60
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames 68 defeated Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic 54
Willetton Tigers v Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars – Willetton Basketball Stadium 5.00pm
Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks v Print Sync South West Slammers – Bendat Basketball Centre 6.00pm
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic v Lakeside Lightning – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm