Mixed opening for Rockingham Flames in SBL

IT was a mixed weekend for the Rockingham Flames in week one of the State Basketball League (SBL), with the club starting the new season with a win and a loss.

An undermanned women’s team went down to last season’s grand final opponents Willetton Tigers 83-54, while the men’s team pulled off an opening week upset downing the Tigers 106-100.

Missing head coach Ryan Petrik as well as several key players in Sami Whitcomb, Darcee Garbin, Ify Ibekwe and Talisia Bourne, the Flames women were always going to struggle against a full-strength Tigers side.

Jacinta Bourne, fresh from a season with Perth Lynx as a development player, was the Flames best player, finishing with 17 points, four steals and three rebounds.

Lizel Buckley (10 points, seven rebounds, two assists) and Tarsha Fletcher (10 points, five rebounds, three assists) also had good games, while Rockingham product Rhianna Kilsura impressed off the bench in her SBL debut with seven points, seven rebounds and a steal.

The Flames men, despite going into the match without starting point guard Taylor Land, pulled off a six-point upset win against the Tigers men, who many in SBL circles had predicted to finish in the top four this season.

Cooper Land was in great form for the Flames, finishing an impressive 34 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, and was ably supported by captain Ryan Godfrey (23 points, four assists, two steals) and Chudier Pal (18 points, 13 rebounds and an assist).

Godfrey said he had looked up to previous Flames sides while growing up in the area and said he never thought he would be given the chance to captain the side.

“As a junior you look up to the guys in the SBL thinking hopefully one day I could be on the court at that level; I never thought I’d captain the Rockingham Flames,” he said.

“Now that I’ve been lucky enough to be given this opportunity, I can’t wait to lead by example. I am definitely looking forward to working together as a unit and giving ourselves the best possible chance to be successful.”

“It’s great to see Ryan’s leadership develop from a 16 year old to today where he is leading the club he loves,” head coach Mark Utley said.

“Ryan has embraced the increased opportunity to lead others and everyone around the team is ecstatic he is our captain.

“Being a local product and coming up through the Flames ranks before heading off to West Georgia for college, it makes Ryan a great role model for the current players coming through the club as to what is on offer if they are willing to put in the hard work and effort.”

Both Flames teams have their first home game of the season on Easter Monday, as they welcome the East Perth Eagles to Mike Barnett Sports Complex.

The women will welcome back a host of players from WNBL duty, and will host a pre-game presentation to unfurl their 2015 SBL Championship Banner at 11:45am.

They tip-off against the Eagles at midday, with the men’s team to follow at 2pm.