BASED on their semi-final battle 12 months prior and given they are both built to win a championship, it was always going to be quite the fight between Perry Lakes and Rockingham, and it didn’t disappoint with the Hawks closing the deal on Friday night.
Perry Lakes overcame Rockingham in three high-quality and intense semi-final matches last year on their way to the championship and both teams deserved to think they had improved further in 2019.
The Hawks now had Perth Wildcats championship winners Shawn Redhage and Clint Steindl in their line-up along with import big Kyle Sovine while Rockingham welcomed back Josh Ritchart in 2019 along with adding Caleb White and Chudier Pal.
Then the two teams finished the regular season with 18-8 records with Rockingham only finishing in front in fourth position based on two emphatic wins in the regular season over Perry Lakes.
But things are a different story come playoff time and on the back of winning Game 1 last Saturday night in Rockingham, Perry Lakes took a one-nil lead into Friday night’s Game 2 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
No more than eight points separated the two teams all evening in what was a tremendously tense, tight and hard fought contest from start to finish.
In the end, the game took a turn in Perry Lakes’ favour when Greg Hire took a hard fall competing for a rebound and injured his ankle with seven minutes left in the game.
He was having quite the impact and didn’t return, but the game still went right down to the wire.
Perry Lakes led by one with 24 seconds left but turned the ball over giving Rockingham the chance. Josh Ritchart was the go-to man for the Flames but he was called for a travel. Subsequently with three seconds left Ryan Smith was fouled and made both for Perry Lakes.
Rockingham still had one more chance but Ritchart’s desperation three didn’t fall and Perry Lakes went on to win 89-86 and advance to the semi finals and break the hearts of the Flames for the second straight year.
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1 MEN’S SBL WRAP
REDHAGE PRIMED TO LEAD HAWKS V HIRE’S FLAMES
WOLVES PLAYERS THRIVING ON RECEIVING GREATER FREEDOM
CREDIT TO UTLEY FOR SUNS RETURN TO FINALS ACTION
CREEK PROUD TO HEAD UP GIANTS REVIVAL
LAKESIDE MOVE EVERYTHING VIGOR HOPED IT WOULD BE
HIRE HAS PLENTY ON PLATE BUT FLAMES TITLE HIS FOCUS
BUCCS SUCCESS THE ULTIMATE DRIVING FORCE FOR HUNT
It was always going to be a cracking quarter-final series and the loser would be heartbroken given both Perry Lakes and Rockingham had every reason to think they both had the potential to go all the way in 2019.
They both had their challenges in terms of personnel throughout the season with player availability, but come finals time Perry Lakes had everyone up and going while so did Rockingham aside from Brad Robbins who suffered an Achilles injury to close the regular season.
The Hawks did well to win Game 1 in Rockingham 89-81 last Saturday night but that was another close and tense affair all night long, and Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre was always going to be similar.
Things remained tight until Clint Steindl caught fire for a patch in the second quarter when he knocked down four three-pointers in the space of two minutes. Rockingham had to find a way to quieten him and that answer proved to be Caleb White who did a tremendous defensive job the rest of the way.
But the Hawks still led 51-47 by half-time and their lead grew to eight to start the second half with scores from Mitch Clarke and Ben Purser before Josh Ritchart steadied Rockingham with a three of his own.
It was then White’s turn to feel it from downtown for Rockingham and three quick triples from him saw the Flames draw level at 63-apiece halfway through the third period.
Perry Lakes took a 70-68 lead into three quarter-time but this was a game always going to be decided at the death.
Whether it was a triples from Kyle Sovine and Ryan Smith or buckets from Shawn Redhage and Steindl, the Hawks continued to hold a slender lead before and after Greg Hire was helped from the floor having suffered a nasty fall which saw him hurt his ankle when battling for a rebound.
But Ritchart was coming up big for the Flames and he soon had his team back within a point and then Ryan Godfrey put them in front. Smith responded immediately with a trademark three before Steindl and Luke Travers traded free-throws.
Steindl and Ritchart traded baskets too with Perry Lakes up 87-86 with the shot clock almost turned off. The Hawks had a scrappy possession when trying to extend their lead which ended with a turnover and a Flames timeout.
From that, the ball found its way to Ritchart but he was triple-teamed in the block and ended up being called for a travel. With just seconds left, Smith was fouled and made three but Rockingham still had three seconds to tie the game.
Ritchart’s triple, however, wouldn’t fall and Perry Lakes took the 89-86 win to advance to the semi finals.
Clint Steindl top-scored for Perry Lakes with 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He didn’t hit a three outside of that second quarter purple patch but continued to contribute and went 8/12 from the floor.
Shawn Redhage still had all his nifty moves inside to put up 21 points to go with three rebounds and three assists. When inside, he was near unstoppable going 9/10 while missing all five of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Ryan Smith came up with 15 points too for the Hawks while Ben Purser produced seven points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, Mitch Clarke seven points and 10 assists, and Kyle Sovine eight points.
Perry Lakes coach Matt Parsons now has his team back to the semi finals having been a championship-winning coach already in 2016 at Cockburn and 2018 with the Hawks, and couldn’t be happier with how they’ve performed against the Flames.
“We’re obviously satisfied with the result and to get it done in two. But take nothing away from Rockingham, they are a fantastic team and they didn’t really catch a break with Greg’s injury towards the end of the game,” Parsons said.
“But there were a few other guys who lifted for them and Ritchart really was a handful at the end of it. We knew that we had to match their energy level when it was do-or-die for them and it’s really difficult when you play a three-game series and you get up one-nil.
“It’s often harder to hold onto a lead than to chase one and they certainly played with the ferocity of a team who wanted to keep going in this series. But we were able to weather the storm and they came at us pretty thick and fast, but we did it and showed some composure down the stretch to make some plays.”
However, Parsons fully knows how hard a fight they received from Rockingham for the second straight year which should now hold them in good stead to play either Joondalup or Kalamunda in the semi finals.
“Early in the season we played them and didn’t really have an opportunity to put our best foot forward and like Rockingham all season, we’ve struggled with cohesiveness and to get our same unit together each week,” Parsons said.
“The playoffs came and both teams were able to get close to full strength and it goes to show that ladder positions are one thing after a long season, but they were two really good basketball teams out there on the floor.
“Ryan Petrik should be proud of the team he put out there and the way that they played, they have veterans, young kids who can flat out play and two good imports. It’s a testament to what they are doing down there in that program to have that calibre of players in there, and it’s the same for us.
“For Greg to go down there and buy into that culture and Shawn to do the same for us, these guys have travelled the world and seen many things, but we are still able to excite them and get performance out of them. That’s a credit to the league to have guys like that involved in the league.”
Josh Ritchart put up 18 points and six rebounds for Rockingham while Chudier Pal fought hard for 14 points and eight boards.
Greg Hire was having a significant impact with 13 points, 17 rebounds and four assists before his ankle injury while Ryan Godfrey finished with 12 points and seven assists, Caleb White 13 points and three boards, and Justin Beard 10 points and three rebounds.
Rockingham coach Ryan Petrik was understandably shattered post-match but was feeling for his players more than anything especially the loyal Rockingham servants like Ryan Godfrey, Jarryd Griffin, Luke Roberts and Justin Beard.
“The changerooms aren’t the nicest place to be at a time like this unfortunately. There are guys in there you obviously care a lot about and it’s pretty raw at a time like this. It’s tough,” Petrik said.
“They were better, it’s as simple as that and that’s the first emotion that comes to mind. Sometimes you think you might outplay the other team and lose, which is annoying, but they were clearly the better team through two games and there’s no issue there.
“It’s annoying for us and it would have been nice if we had a three-game patch where we have everyone, that would be terrific. But one day we’ll get that. It just won’t be this year.”
Ultimately the Flames will reflect on the season of what might have been because at full strength anything could have happened, but they just could never get to be at that point and that continued in the playoffs with Robbins out with his Achilles and then Hire going out for the final seven minutes.
“The whole season reeked of 2016 with the girls for us when we couldn’t get Ibekwe and Garbin on the court together. This year it’s been a whole different guys who have missed games for a whole range of reasons,” Petrik said.
“We were alright with the way we played tonight and then Greg went down. But you have to be able to play through it, they did it last year without Holmen so there’s no excuse. We still have enough talent but Perry Lakes were better and they were still in front at the time so it’s not an excuse.”
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS GAME 2
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks 89 defeated Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 86 (Perry Lakes wins 2-0)
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Active West Stadium 7.30pm (Geraldton leads 1-0)
Lakeside Lightning v Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants – Lakeside Recreation Centre 8.00pm (Lakeside leads 1-0)
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves – Ray Owen Sports Centre 8.30pm (Joondalup leads 1-0)
QUARTER FINALS GAME 3 (if required)
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – HBF Arena 12.00pm
Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Active West Stadium 12.00pm
Lakeside Lightning v Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants – Lakeside Recreation Centre 12.00pm