THE Mandurah Magic will look to find ways to turnaround or get around some of the things they felt went against them in Game 1 against the Rockingham Flames but what coach Craig Watts and his team knows is how desperate they are to force a Game 3.
The Magic have played in the past two Grand Finals in the Women’s SBL having lost a narrow one to the Perry Lakes Hawks in 2017 and then in the most heartbreaking fashion of all, dominated last year against the Lakeside Lightning before conceding the final 21 points of the game.
Then for a lot of the 2019 season it looked like it was going to be one where Mandurah might or might not just sneak into the finals but not go too far, until everything just started to click in stunning fashion.
The eventual replacement of import centre Ginka Palusna for point guard Taylor Brown proved a masterstroke and then the Magic just got on a roll and never looked back. They went on to win the last nine games of the regular season to finish in second position on the table.
That saw them earn home court advantage in their quarter-final match up against the Rockingham Flames having beaten their local rivals last year when they themselves were the lower-ranked team on the way to reaching the Grand Final.
Having gone 10-1 at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre during the season, the Magic were certainly looking forward to hosting Game 1. And it was a tight affair the whole way until the Flames pulled away late to take the 76-65 victory ahead of Game 2 in Rockingham this Saturday night.
That now becomes a must-win game for the Magic if they are to force a deciding Game 3 back in Mandurah on Sunday afternoon.
The atmosphere at Game 1 in Mandurah last Friday night was tremendous especially considering it was a standalone Women’s contest with the game night that the Magic are now providing in their redeveloped stadium among the best in the competition.
Watts now wants to reward those home fans and also try to take advantage of how well they generally play on their home court by ensuring Game 3 is back in Mandurah on Sunday afternoon.
“We had a massive crowd of Mandurah people here for the game and to be honest I thought there might have been a few more, I don’t think a lot of Rockingham people came down even though it’s only a 15 or 20-minute drive which surprised me a little bit,” Watts said.
“It will be interesting going to Rockingham now because I think our supporters will follow us as they’ve done in the past and we expect to get a win for them so that we can get back here and pack this joint out and make it as hostile as we can.
“I was a bit surprised that we had gone 10-1 at home this season but that shows we like playing at home and now we’re looking forward to the chance to get back here to use that slight advantage.”
The Magic were in hot form entering Game 1 with their nine-game winning streak, but things didn’t quite go their way in a number of areas including ending up with less than half the foul shots that Rockingham did despite Mihovilovich and Brown attacking the basket along with the inside grunt work done by Emma and Bree Klasztorny.
There’s not much Watts can do about the whistle but what he might need to do with his players is to come up with a slightly different plan if they aren’t getting the calls going their way come Game 2 as well.
Brown did attack the basket a little more than she he had been during the back end of the season and it didn’t quite pay off but Watts will work on a number of areas during the week and hopefully he sees it pay off come Saturday night.
“We’ll definitely have a look at that during the week and see what we can do to change it up a little bit. We obviously have to make a few little changes and Taylor was probably attacking the basket in that first game a little more than she has in the previous games,” Watts said.
“Generally she has pulled up and hit a jumper before this so we’ll see what adjustments we make. They are a very long team and we knew that coming in so we’ll make some slight adjustments to try and get the ball in the hole a bit more.”