THE Rockingham Flames showed plenty of heart to win Game 1 of their quarter-final series against Mandurah Magic last Friday night but even though they will have what coach Keegan Crawford calls the best game night in the league behind them on Saturday, he’s taking nothing for granted.
Despite Rockingham’s men now not playing on Saturday night after having their season ended by the Perry Lakes Hawks on Friday night, Saturday evening at Mike Barnett Sports Complex is going to provide quite the treat with the Flames hosting the Magic.
Game 1 last Friday night in Mandurah was a hell of a battle for four quarters before Darcee Garbin caught fire late and Maddie Allen had a big impact defensively to help Rockingham claim the road victory 76-65 to go up one-nil in the series.
Now the Flames hit their home floor this Saturday to try and close the series but with Mandurah having eliminated Rockingham last year on their way to the Grand Final, Crawford knows better than to underrate a team featuring Casey Mihovilovich, Bree and Emma Klasztorny, Carly Boag, Taylor Brown and a strong supporting cast.
He is expecting another grind out, physical contest that goes down to the wire and he wouldn’t want it any other way in a local derby.
“I just expect more of the same, an absolute fight. From the very start, we had a really good opening possession with how we drew it up but then they punched us in the mouth,” Crawford said.
“We just have to respond when that happens and punch them back. I expect it to be another close, gripping kind of game where if we keep our cool, hopefully we can come out on top.”
What the Flames have done in recent years to provide a tremendous game night atmosphere deserves to be recognised as well as much for the ability to attract more than 1000 people into the building, and for the entertainment and hospitality provided when inside.
Saturday night is sure to have quite the atmosphere with the Flames trying to win through to the semi finals and Crawford can’t wait to get in the middle of it to experience it for his first time as head coach.
“Our game night is definitely the best in the league, especially among the metro associations,” he said.
“Warren has done a fantastic job this year getting sponsors on board and creating a great atmosphere for a family night out with some entertainment.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to try and end things at home, but we are not getting ahead of ourselves. But playing in front of a home crowd in a playoffs game is what it’s all about.”
Darcee Garbin received a lot of the plaudits after the Game 1 win for the Flames and rightfully so given she put up 32 points just two days after returning from the Australian Opals camp in Arizona, but Maddie Allen was equally important.
Crawford has noticed that when Allen makes herself active and dangerous in the right positions on offence, the Flames click a lot better and that’s on top of the obvious benefits she provides defensively as a rebounder and shot blocker.
“What Maddie does, and we’ve said this all season, doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. Some of the things that she can do defensively with how she can cover for other players when they get beat is hugely important,” Crawford said.
“And when she plays out of the high post a little bit more like she did in the second half she really gets her offensive going and then we are tough to guard and all three of our bigs become a real threat.”
The Flames were impressive defensively last Friday night holding the Magic to just 65 points and in particular helping to restrict Taylor Brown and Casey Mihovilovich to a combined 34 points on 13-38 shooting.
While Crawford was happy with the defensive effort, he knows they have to brace for the Magic to hit back hard in Game 2.
“A lot of it was credit to us for doing a pretty good job of taking them out of the flow and we looked at how we guarded the ball, but I expect them to shoot better as well in Game 2,” Crawford said.
“Players the class of Milo and Brown, you can keep them down for a half or maybe a game, but they will respond. We have to be better with how we respond to them getting hot now next weekend because it’s going to happen.”