More than 27 years after joining the pinnacle of West Australian basketball, the Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames men’s team will play in its first grand final after defeating the Lakeside Lightning 88-72 in their preliminary final last Saturday night.
The Flames put aside recent years’ heartbreak at this stage of the season to record a famous 16-point victory at Lakeside Recreation Centre, led by star Perth Wildcats recruit Tom Jervis, who not only blunted the influence of Lakeside’s Jarrad Prue, but finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a pair of blocks.
The victory puts the Flames one step closer to a maiden men’s championship, and coach Ryan Petrik closer to landing what he has called his own personal ‘white whale’.
“Winning a championship for the men’s team is my ‘white whale’. I could win 100 elsewhere, but winning one with the Rocko men’s program is everything to me,” Petrik has said previously of his ambition with this Flames team.
Before conquering the Lightning on Saturday night, the Flames overcame local rivals the Mandurah Magic in Friday night’s semi-final in front of a packed house at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
The Flames’ 99-76 victory, in front of a sold out crowd of 1948 at the Hot House, was perhaps their most rounded and team-focused of 2021, with all 12 players contributing and no one standing out above the rest.
This win was built on a fantastic opening period, which saw the Flames burn out to a 36-19 quarter time lead, and lock-down defence in which the Flames never allowed their opponents to score more than 19 points in a quarter.
Five Flames finished in double digits for scoring, with Travis Durnin leading the way with 15 points in what was his best game of the season to date.
On Saturday night, it was a final quarter containment job that saw the Flames prevail after the two sides were separated by just a handful of points throughout most of the evening.
The Flames trailed by six points halfway through the second quarter before mounting a comeback to lead by a point at the main break, with the same margin separating the teams at three quarter time after the Flames let a nine-point lead slip late in the term.
Perhaps burnt from letting a positive position go begging, the Flames came out hot to start the final 10 minutes and by the midway point of the term were 12 points ahead with the Lightning yet to trouble the scorers.
They wouldn’t let the mistakes of the previous quarter come back to haunt them, however, holding on for an impressive 16-point win and setting up a grand final date with the Perry Lakes Hawks in Saturday night’s NBL1 West men’s decider.
Jervis was supported by Durnin and Atem Bior, who scored 18 and 15 points respectively, while skipper Ryan Godfrey and Justin Beard each notched five assists, and Greg Hire eight rebounds.
The NBL1 West men’s grand final will be played at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night with tip-off at 7pm.