THE Perth Redbacks have claimed another big scalp to continue their hot Women’s SBL form overcoming a significant size differential to beat the Rockingham Flames 72-67 on Friday night.
The game at Mike Barnett Sports Complex was a standalone fixture on Friday night between two teams who were knocked out by the Mandurah Magic in last year’s playoffs, but now have new coaches and significantly different rosters as they gear up for finals again in 2019.
With Rockingham’s size edge inside with Darcee Garbin, Maddie Allen and Christina Boag, it was a chance for the Flames to take advantage and maintain their hopes of reaching the top four, but in the end the Redbacks battled hard inside and made enough big plays offensively for the crucial win.
Despite Morgan Pullins getting in foul trouble, Jess Jakens battled incredibly hard inside against Garbin and Allen despite giving up plenty of size, and then the all-round brilliance of Lauren Mansfield, Rosie Deegan and Nes’eya Williams saw the Redbacks home.
The five-point win for the Redbacks means they are on a five-game winning streak to improve to a 9-9 record. The Flames are now just ahead at 9-8 having won gone 3-2 since replacing coach Craig Reynolds with 23-year-old Keegan Crawford.
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Having started the season with six consecutive losses, the Redbacks’ form has been building impressively and they have now gone 9-3 since then and won their past five matches to even be a chance of finishing top four after only breaking into the top eight a couple of weeks ago.
Redbacks coach Craig Allen is happy with the way his team’s playing, but knows this isn’t the time for complacency.
“I think even in our slow start you could see the potential there. We weren’t losing by big margins most of the time and we were competitive in most of our games so you could see it building,” Allen said.
“It’s just kept growing and growing, and we just have to keep matching that. The challenge for us now is to not be happy with where we’re at, it’s to keep stepping it up to the next level.
“If you are happy with where you’re at, you won’t keep improving and everyone else will get better around you. So that’s our challenge and we have created some wonderful momentum for ourselves so it can’t stop here.”
The Redbacks did start the game well on the road to the Flames to lead 20-15, but things closed up a little in the second quarter and became decidedly scrappy with plenty of uncharacteristic turnovers from either side.
In the end, the Flames scored 14 points to nine for the quarter and scores were all tied at 29-apiece at the major break.
Rockingham would go on to take a three-point lead to three quarter-time with Darcee Garbin warming to her task offensively nicely forming a good combination with Alex Ciabattoni in her third game with the club.
But it was all the Redbacks at both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter and in a physical game, they frustrated the Flames and through their willingness to put their bodies on the line, overcame the size they were giving up.
The Redbacks put up 27 points to 19 in the fourth term to come away with the tremendous 72-67 road win.
The Redbacks did well to only lose the rebound count by five given the dramatic size difference and with Morgan Pullins restricted to 20 minutes with foul trouble.
But at the same time, Garbin and Maddie Allen battled with fouls in the second half too as frustrations mounted. Even Rockingham backup guard Jesni Cooper struggled to stay on the floor, fouling out in less than 12 minutes.
With Mansfield pushing the pace and Deegan aggressive too, the Redbacks ended up getting to the foul line 26 times and making 16 from there with the Flames only going 8/11 from the free-throw line.
Allen was delighted with how his team worked together to overcome the size difference inside and then make the most of their opportunities.
“I knew it was always going to be a tough ask for JJ and Morgan because obviously they are outsized by a fair bit,” Allen said.
“Then Morgan gets in foul trouble which adds to it, but again it’s as much about working to intent which JJ is awesome at to get those help rotations happening. We were really good at that tonight particularly when it mattered in the last quarter and-a-bit.
“I was really pleased with how the girls played, they really worked together and that was important. We were outsized certainly inside, but we matched that with our effort, intent and defensive rotations.
“I was really happy with how we stepped up with our defence particularly in that second half. Working together is the key and that’s really important for our group, and they showed what can happen when they work together.”
Nes’eya Williams hit some massive jump shots at the most crucial times for the Redbacks highlighting what a remarkable future star she has the potential to come. She finished the night with 16 points, six rebounds including hitting 2/3 from three-point range.
Jess Jakens finished with 13 points and five rebounds having played all but three minutes of the game while Rosie Deegan contributed 14 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, and Lauren Mansfield 11 points, five boards and three assists.
Alix Hayward also had six points and three assists for Perth, Denielle Lipscombe five points, four rebounds and three assists, and Morgan Pullins four points and five rebounds.
Darcee Garbin had another impressive night for Rockingham with 26 points and nine rebounds while Alex Ciabattoni added 20 points, eight boards, four assists and two steals.
Maddie Allen contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds while Christina Boag had 11 rebounds despite two points on 1/7 shooting.
Caretaker Flames coach Keegan Crawford wouldn’t be distracted by any frustrations that popped up in the game, instead crediting the Redbacks for how they played and knowing his team has to work on getting better and trying to get their full roster together.
“We can whine and complain all those sort of things that can frustrate you, but at the end of the day you have to give credit to the Redbacks,” Crawford said.
“They did a really good job at taking us out of what we wanted to do and they played at a tempo that we weren’t comfortable playing at. We just settled into what they wanted to do.
“At the moment for us, it is a challenge to know who we can put on the floor and we still haven’t put our best line-up together at all. Every team and every club goes through that, but at some point we’d like to see the team that we want to take into the playoffs out on the floor together.
“Credit to the girls, they have been good so far in embracing change with all the turnover that’s happened with our unit this year, but we clearly need to keep moving forward and tinkering with the wheel a little bit.”
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