THEY still weren’t at full strength and suffered an injury scare late, but the Rockingham Flames put in a strong performance on their home floor on Friday night especially to dominate inside in an eventual 82-70 victory over the Mandurah Magic.
On paper, the Flames full squad might be the most talented and intimidating in the Men’s SBL this season but the fact is coach Ryan Petrik has only had everyone available in two of 16 games to date and they again were without key players on Friday night.
Despite the absence of Luke Travers and Brad Robbins, and then a lower leg injury scare to import guard Caleb White late in the game, Rockingham still produced a strong performance against Mandurah at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
It was a strong showing against a tricky opponent for the Flames to see them respond to a loss to Willetton and improve to an 11-5 record on the season. Mandurah might slip to 4-11 with the loss but the Magic are significantly better in 2019 than that suggests.
Both teams have a short turnaround to back up and play on Saturday night with Rockingham travelling to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns while Mandurah is back home to host the Lakeside Lightning.
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To stay in touch for a top four finish, Rockingham needed to respond well to last Friday night’s loss to Willetton that snapped a four-game winning run, and while Mandurah battled hard all evening, the Flames were in control of the contest most of the way.
It was a hot start from the Flames as they raced to a 12-2 lead which included six points from Caleb White made up of an and-one play and a three-pointers. Then when Josh Ritchart hit from downtown, Rockingham was in control up 15-4.
The Flames maintained a 26-14 lead by quarter-time and while the Magic produced an impressive second quarter, Rockingham was still on top 47-38 by half-time thanks to a huge two-handed slam from Ritchart as time expired.
Mandurah made a couple of runs throughout the second half but could never quite get close enough to seriously threaten and despite the scare of Caleb White leaving the game late with a lower leg injury, Rockingham cruised to the 82-70 victory.
Flames coach Ryan Petrik knew that the Magic would be no pushovers and he was happy with much of what he saw from his team to claim the 12-point win.
“Their form has been really good and obviously their big three, especially Stewart, can really ball and Aaron Trahair is no slouch as a coach, he’s good. They’re a good team and we’re happy to get away with that one,” Petrik said.
“I liked our aggressiveness early and Caleb is a totally different player when he’s putting it on the floor and getting his head on the rim. Then when we get our offensive transition right, damn we’re good. But when we get it wrong, we’re awful.
“We actually didn’t look completely clueless against the zone for the first time in a long time either. We’re getting there but it’s just getting two per cent better each week that’s probably the plan from here.”
Rockingham’s size inside proved tough to counter with Chudier Pal, Josh Ritchart and Greg Hire combining for 41 rebounds. As a team they finished with 57 to 39 from Mandurah to go with 40 points inside the paint to 32.
Ritchart top-scored for Rockingham with 21 points, eight rebounds and two steals with his 9/14 field goals including a handful of huge dunks.
Caleb White produced 19 points, six rebounds and four assists before getting hurt while Pal contributed nine points and 11 rebounds, and Hire nine points, 12 boards and nine assists.
Captain Ryan Godfrey also had nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Rockingham, Jarryd Griffin six points and five boards, and Justin Beard six points and six rebounds.
Shaun Stewart did all he could to keep the Magic in the contest finishing with 28 points, five assists and three rebounds including hitting 4/8 from downtown.
Marvin Smith added 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals for Mandurah while Cousteau Kyle contributed nine points, Aaron Keating nine points and three rebounds, and Travis Durnin seven points, 10 boards and three assists.
Both teams now back up to play on Saturday night and for Rockingham, that’s a trip to Ray Owen Sports Centre to play the Eastern Suns.
Petrik knows he is without Luke Travers and potentially Caleb White which will make matching up on Suns star Josh Braun a challenge.
“The issue for us will be how Caleb pulls up with whatever’s gone on with him and then Travers is in China at the moment too, which just happens to line-up when we’re playing Kalamunda and Josh Braun,” Petrik said.
“Normally we have plenty of wings to choose hence we did well against Perry Lakes with Travers, Caleb White and Justin Beard rotating through Steindl. But we’re a bit short now but it’s next man up and there’s no excuses. We know what it’s in front of us and have to get on with it.”
The game will also be the first time that new Suns coach Mark Utley leads his team into battle against his former Flames team. Petrik has no doubt he will be pumped for it.
“I’m sure he will be fired up, I’m absolutely positive of that,” Petrik said.
“But the coaches aren’t playing the game, it’s about the boys on the court.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 13
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 108 defeated CMTG East Perth Eagles 98
Lakeside Lightning 92 lost to ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 96
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 82 defeated Mandurah Magic 70
Willetton Tigers v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Willetton Basketball Stadium 7.00pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Active West Stadium 7.30pm
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Niels Hansen Basketball Centre 7.30pm
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks v Print Sync South West Slammers – Bendat Basketball Centre 8.00pm
Mandurah Magic v Lakeside Lightning – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 8.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm