Flames maul Tigers at home

The Rockingham Flames men's team secured an upset victory over the top of the ladder Willetton Tigers at the Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Saturday night snatching victory in the final moments of the game 126-125.

In what was widely predicted to be a battle of muscle power after the physical encounter last time these two met only 31 fouls were called as both teams instead took to battle on the shooting range with a first rate display of offensive firepower, particularly in the first half. With neither side willing to back down the shooting spree continued up to the half time buzzer with the Rockingham Flames taking a 72-69 lead into the main break due to an impressive conversion rate of 67% from the field and 58% from the arc. Willetton's accuracy wasn't far behind at 63% & 45% ironically however both sides were dismal from the charity line managing just 60% (Flames) & 50% (Tigers).

After the break it was Perth Wildcats centre Paul Rogers who took control with 12 points in 4 1/2 minutes to give the Tigers a 6 point lead which became 9 points with a Liam Rush dunk and even the Flames most faithful sensed a Tigers blowout was immeniemt. The Flames steadied with Anthony Exeter connecting with 3 straight field goals and when Carlin Hughes knocked down 2 three pointers and a layup the Flames found themselves just 4 points adrift with less than 30 seconds to play in the third. The Tigers weren't done and with a heartbreaking 3 seconds left the Tigers nailed the last field goal of the quarter to lead 100-94.

Going into the final stanza it was the Tigers who again surged with field goals from Rogers (2) and Rush (1) before Rush nailed another long range bomb to give the Tigers yet another 9 point lead and left the Flames fans wondering whether all was lost. English import Matthew Hogarth who had been solid all game for the Flames suddenly exploded reeling off two 3 pointers and a layup closely followed by an Andrew Bowman 3 pointer making 11 consecutive points and giving the Flames a 2 point lead. After yet another Rush dunk we again had a tied ball game, 109 a piece with 8 minutes to go.

Down the stretch the Tigers offense relied almost exclusively on Roger's massive advantage in the keyway, with 12 of their last 14 points coming from the big man however the Flames were able to spread the load with 5 players combining for the last 15 points and Hughes able to make a crucial field goal to regain the lead with 12 seconds to go. Tigers call timeout to orchestrate one last attempt and with 2 seconds left in the game Sleeman gets the shot off but its no good and Flames snatch victory and topple the mighty Tigers in one of the best games played at Rockingham in recent years.

In a willingly contested match it was probably the fantastic 3 point shooting of Hughes, Hogarth and Bowman (11/25) and the persistent Flames defensive pressure that saw the Tigers turn the ball over 21 times to the 14 that got them over the line. Anytime you come up against 2 quality NBL players in Rogers (36 pts @ 76%, 12 rebs, 8 ass, 90% F/T) and Rush (37 pts, 6 rebs) you need a team effort and the Flames maintained their cohesiveness throughout almost the entire game.

Individual efforts are almost impossible to single out in a game like this but Hughes (32pts, 6 ass, 6 3pts), Hogarth (30pts), Exeter (20 pts @ 71%), Travis Moore (14pts @ 60%, 7 rebs & the toughest def assignment in the league) & Stephen Watson (13pts @ 86%) all had sensational games.

Head Coach Mark Clayden, who must be pleased with his team's efforts to win their last 3 games and break into the 8, will be sure to emphasise the importance of the upcoming weekend's games to capitalise on their recent good form. With games away against the Bunbury Slammers (Friday) and home against the Wanneroo Wolves (Saturday) all the good work of the past few weeks will be all for nought if the team drops either of these games it is expected to win. Conversely another successful double header weekend should see the Flames (currently 8th) snapping at the heals of teams 4th through 7th, all of who are currently no more than 2 wins ahead of the Flames who currently have a 6 from 7 win/loss ratio.

After last week's gutsy performance the club will be hoping for another vocal turnout to cheer the Flames to victory against the Wolves this Saturday 17th with men's tip off at 8pm and women's at 6pm.

Pictures from the game can now be found by selecting "Flames Photo Gallery" from the menu bar at left.


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