THE Mandurah Magic continue to be the hottest team in the Women’s SBL as they impressively won by 16 points over the Rockingham Flames at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre on Friday night.
It was another statement performance from the Magic of how far they have come over the past five weeks.
Five weeks ago on a Friday night in Rockingham, they were outplayed, outhustled and outmuscled in a disappointing 14-point defeat where even that margin flattered them.
At that point, the Magic looked like being in a dog fight to qualify for the playoffs again in 2019 while it looked to be the Flames on an upward trajectory having made a coaching change.
But the five weeks since couldn’t have been more contrasting from those appearances with Mandurah undefeated since that loss, including a monstrous 29-point win the next night over the Lakeside Lightning.
Now after Friday night’s 81-65 victory on their home floor against Rockingham, Mandurah has won six straight matches to be sitting pretty with a 12-7 record with a top four finish now looking likely.
The Flames haven’t quite been able to string together the sort of performances they delivered five weeks ago in that win over the Magic. Rockingham has now lost three of five matches since to now hold a 9-9 record.
What Friday night provided the Magic was the chance to show just how far they have come over the past five weeks given how rocked they were with that disappointing performance in Rockingham.
The result was that Mandurah showed that after playing in the past two Women’s Grand Finals, they can’t be discounted in the championship race again in now in 2019 with their dominant display virtually all night against the Flames on Friday night.
The fact that it means the Magic have now won six straight matches has them the form team in the competition as well.
Mandurah never trailed the entire night and that was in direct contrast to that clash in Rockingham where they made a horrible start and could never recover.
The Magic got on top early on Friday night in front of a good crowd in Mandurah and never looked back.
By quarter-time, the Magic led 22-15 and they maintained the edge to head into the half-time break with a 45-36 advantage.
Despite the size disadvantage they had inside to Darcee Garbin and Maddie Allen, and then losing captain Rachel Halleen to a knee injury before half-time, with Emma and Bree Klasztorny at their tenacious best inside, the Magic just weren’t going to be denied.
They remained on top throughout the second half responding to each run by the Flames impressively to end up winning by 16 points.
The Magic backcourt of Casey Mihovilovich and Taylor Brown showed just how much potential they have alongside each other.
In her 485th SBL game, Mihovilovich had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds while in her fifth match in the league, Brown had 16 points, seven assists, four boards and three steals.
Then down low, Emma Klasztorny had nine points and seven rebounds with Bree Klasztorny finishing with 12 points, six boards, five steals and two assists.
Rachel Pettit also finished with eight points and four assists for Mandurah, Delany Junkermeir six points and three rebounds, and Carly Boag six points, seven rebound and two steals.
Magic coach Craig Watts can’t be happier with the team’s performance and what they’ve done to turn things around so impressively since that last loss to the Flames.
“It’s a huge win and I guess the change for us from five games ago is that we’ve locked down defensively,” Watts said.
“We are doing a really good job defensively and that’s obviously changing the way we play our offence as well to be able to push the ball a little bit better.
“But at the end of the day, it’s the defensive work that we’re doing and in a game like this where we are outsized, the girls just seem to grow some extra height. They are competing so hard and that’s just making the world of difference.”
The only downside for the Flames was 304-game captain Rachel Halleen going down with a knee injury in the second quarter.
Watts is hopeful it’s not as bad as it first appeared though.
“Rachel does work in physiotherapy so she has a fair understanding of these things and immediately thought it was a medial to start with so fingers crossed it is just a strain,” Watts said.
“There is a fair bit of swelling there but we’ll get that looked at and assessed but hopefully it might only be a three or four-week injury and we can get her back for the start of the playoffs. She just started to find some real good form too.
“She had 16 points last week and she’s doing a really good job of shutting down the offensive scorers for the other side. It’s definitely going to be a loss for sure but it gives someone else an opportunity to step up and take their chance with both hands as well.”
While it was a tough loss to take for the Flames who will now lose Darcee Garbin for the rest of the regular season due to the Opals camp in Phoenix ahead of September’s Asia Cup, there’s no doubt Rockingham’s best is still as good as any team in the competition.
Friday night might have been one of those games where nothing clicked but Garbin did still score 18 points to go with 14 rebounds.
Alex Ciabattoni did what she could too with 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals while Janelle Adams contributed nine points, Christina Boag eight points, three boards and two blocked shots, and Maddie Allen five points and 11 rebounds.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 17
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 92 defeated Lakeside Lightning 83
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic 81 defeated Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames 65
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 72 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 75
Lakeside Lightning v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Lakeside Recreation Centre 4.00pm
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars v Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks – Wally Hagan Stadium 5.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.00pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm