THE Rockingham Flames and Warwick Senators were two teams who loaded up big for 2019 and now they get to lock horns with the championship on the line in Friday night’s Women’s SBL Grand Final at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Flames and Senators were both knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in 2018 and from there underwent similar paths in preparation for 2019.
They both appointed a new coach with Craig Reynolds filling the role at Rockingham left vacant by Ryan Petrik but having since been replaced by Keegan Crawford while Dion Dagostino was appointed as coach at the Senators for his first crack at coaching in the Women’s SBL.
Then both teams decided to go big with the Flames welcoming back Darcee Garbin while retaining Maddie Allen and signing Christina Boag with the Senators parting ways with Amber Land, but bringing in a trio of bigs in the form of Sam Roscoe, Bianca Villegas and Tayla Hepburn.
As it’s turned out, there has been additions in the back courts too with Rockingham welcoming Alex Ciabattoni and Tayah Burrows while Warwick have added the services of Samaria Howard and Stacey Barr.
Combine the additions with Rockingham still possessing a good core of Ariana Hetherington, Ella Kennedy and Chelsea Petrik, and Warwick with Nicole Jorre De St Jorre, Rebekah and Hannah Throns, Emma Berryman, Maddison Hooper and until recently Caitlyn Jones.
So it’s easy to see why on paper both teams have reached the Grand Final for 2019 but the Flames and Senators have both undertaken rollercoaster rides to get there.
But ultimately, they have proven the two best teams in the finals series with both of them winning each of the series two games to nil to set the stage for a mouth watering Grand Final on Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Rockingham is back in its first Women’s SBL Grand Final since winning back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015 while Warwick is in its first decider since 2007 with the Senators attempting to win their first title since 1994.
GARBIN’S PASSION FOR ROCKINGHAM STILL BURNS BRIGHT
HOWARD EMBRACING GRAND FINAL EXCITEMENT WITH SENATORS
DAGOSTINO HOPES IT’S THIRD TIME LUCKY AS COACH
CRAWFORD PROUD TO HAVE FLAMES FIRING INTO GRAND FINAL
Under a new coach for the first time in a decade, Rockingham started the season well enough winning five of the first seven games even without the arrival yet of Darcee Garbin and Alex Ciabattoni.
But they would soon go on a three-game losing run and it was a loss to Willetton that proved the last game in charge for Craig Reynolds.
Keegan Crawford would replace him and oversee a 68-54 home win over the Mandurah Magic and from there the Flames went 7-3 to close the season under his coaching to end the season in seventh position with a 13-9 record.
That set up a tantalising quarter-final battle with Mandurah but Rockingham was able to get the job done in two hard fought contests to set up a semi-final battle with a Perry Lakes Hawks team on their own eight-game winning streak.
But the Flames proved too good in two games against the Lady Hawks to book their place in the Grand Final.
Once Stacey Barr and Samaria Howard arrived at the Senators to join Bianca Villegas and Tayla Hepburn, they got on an early season roll even without Sam Roscoe winning five of their first six matches.
Then following losses to Rockingham and Joondalup, the Senators won six straight matches but it was then a grind the rest of the way with Villegas and Hepburn missing for stretches.
Having won 11 of their first 14 games of 2019, the Senators won just three of their last eight to enter the finals from fourth spot with a 14-8 record.
But with Villegas and Hepburn back to join Roscoe up front, and with Barr on fire, they produced two outstanding performances in the first two rounds to beat both the Willetton Tigers and defending champion Lakeside Lightning in two games to get to the Grand Final.
The Flames and Senators met twice during the regular season with the Flames winning at Warwick Stadium by seven points on May 3 and then in the second last round, Rockingham again prevailed this time with the 101-77 scoreline at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
But neither team has lost so far in the playoffs setting the stage for what should be a tantalising Grand Final contest.
There are going to be mouth watering match ups all over the floor but none more so than the battle inside. Both teams have three genuine bigs with Rockingham possessing Darcee Garbin, Maddie Allen and Christina Boag, and Warwick with Sam Roscoe, Bianca Villegas and Tayla Hepburn.
Roscoe and Garbin have both won SBL championships previously and prefer to step out and shoot while Allen is a genuine shot blocker and intimidator inside which how Villegas and Hepburn can compete against will prove fascinating.
Stacey Barr could well prove the difference in the game and if she catches fire again for the Senators, they could be tough to stop. She is averaging 22.5 points a game this season but over the last 13 games that’s up to 26.6 and 30.3 the past three playoff games.
Rockingham’s Chelsea Petrik will likely get first crack at defending her but it will take a team effort from the Flames.
Senators veteran of 396 SBL games Nicole Jorre De St Jorre looks the likely match up for Rockingham’s Alex Ciabattoni as well with both ably supported by Samaria Howard and Tayah Burrows respectively.
There’s so much to look forward to from both teams with a host of potential match-winners on either side setting the stage for a Women’s SBL Grand Final you won’t want to miss.
WOMEN’S SBL GRAND FINAL
BETHANIE WARWICK SENATORS (14-8, 4th) v CLASS 1 ORTHODONTICS ROCKINGHAM FLAMES (13-9, 7th) – BENDAT BASKETBALL CENTRE, FRIDAY NIGHT 7.30PM