THE Rockingham Flames handed the Joondalup Wolves their first defeat of the West Coast Classic on Saturday night at Mike Barnett Sports Complex to suddenly mean the race for a top two finish and a home semi-final is on in earnest.
The Lady Wolfpack did go a long way to securing a top two finish with a win at HBF Arena over the Perry Lakes Hawks on Friday night to remain undefeated so far in the West Coast Classic, but that all changed 24 hours later.
The Wolves were the last remaining undefeated team in the Women’s West Coast Classic as they made the trip down to Rockingham to take on the reigning SBL champions who themselves have lost just once since July 5 last year.
So the stage was set for a fascinating contest between two teams with definite eyes on winning the West Coast Classic.
It was a relatively close first half even though there were times the Flames threatened to open up handy advantages.
That did happen in a dominant third quarter from the home team with Tayah Burrows, Christina Boag and Paris Duffield proving a strong big three combination.
The Flames went on a run of scoring 19 consecutive points and would lead by as much as 21, but the game wasn’t quite done.
Burrows copped a heavy knock early in the fourth quarter ending her night and the Lady Wolfpack did get back to as close as five points before Rockingham did steady enough to win 83-75 and leave both teams on 6-1 records in the top two spots with three rounds of the West Coast Classic remaining.
Rockingham came into the game playing its only game of the weekend while Joondalup delivered an impressive performance the night before at HBF Arena to beat the Perry Lakes Hawks and to remain undefeated.
With only one loss between them coming into the game, it always shaped as being a tremendous contest and little separated the Flames and Wolves through the first half.
The Flames did make the first break going up 20-12 shortly before quarter-time after a triple from Ashlyn Lee, but the Wolfpack hit back with a triple from Chelsea Belcher, free-throws from Shani Caldwell and then another three from Belcher to tie scores up after one.
Belcher then continued her hot shooting knocking down another to start the second quarter but the Flames remained close and then took a narrow 36-35 lead into half-time when Zahli Jolly hit from downtown on the buzzer.
While the game was right on the line at the half, the Flames soon took over starting with a three-pointer from Tayah Burrows to open the third period.
Burrows then caught fire putting up seven points in under a minute before Christina Boag converted a four-point play. Rockingham kept the momentum going too with Burrows hitting another three and then a Paris Duffield jumper made it a stunning 19-0 run to blow the game wide open.
The Flames went from being up two to leading by 21 in the matter of minutes, but the tide did begin to turn when Burrows went down with a heavy hit under the basket with seven minutes remaining.
The margin was still 14 in favour of Rockingham at that stage but suddenly when Kayla Steindl drained a three it was back to nine with five minutes remaining.
A Boag three did briefly steady the Flames at a 10-point lead, but they were struggling to take care of the ball and get the looks they were getting with Burrows on the floor.
Joondalup kept coming and were within five when Georgia Denehey hit from three-point land. But Boag responded with two big plays up the other end creating three-point opportunities for the Flames and that was enough for them to hold on to the 83-75 win.
Before going off hurt and then returning to the bench looking sick and sorry, Tayah Burrows was outstanding again for the Flames.
The 18-year-old Perth Lynx WNBL guard finished with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals on 6/10 shooting from the field, 3/4 from deep and 6/8 from the foul line.
Paris Duffield had another big night too for Rockingham with 18 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists while attempting another 12 three-pointers and making four.
Christina Boag also had 16 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots for the Flames while Ashlyn Lee finished with nine points, Tiana Wilson-Palmer seven points, Ariana Hetherington six points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals, and Zahli Jolly four points and six boards.
There was still plenty to like for the Wolves despite it being their first loss of the season and giving up those 19 straight points in the third quarter.
Chelsea Belcher ended the night with 20 points, four rebounds and two steals while knocking down 4/7 from three-point territory.
Kayla Steindl also had 16 points and nine rebounds for Joondalup while Alix Hayward contributed nine points, seven rebounds and three steals, Nes’eya Williams seven points, seven boards and four assists, and Isabelle Miotti seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – WOMEN
Perth Redbacks 74 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 72
South West Slammers 28 lost to Willetton Tigers 81
Joondalup Wolves 67 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks 55
Mandurah Magic 54 lost to Warwick Senators 86
Perry Lakes Hawks 79 defeated East Perth Eagles 60
Rockingham Flames 83 defeated Joondalup Wolves 75
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 109 defeated South West Slammers 40