Petrik looking forward to battle of best teams, players

WHILE trying to find any advantage he can for his side on Friday night in the women's SBL grand final for 2014, Rockingham Flames coach Ryan Petrik is looking forward to the challenge that awaits as the best two teams with the league's two best players meet at the WA Basketball Centre.

The Orange Autos Rockingham Flames take on the Lakeside Lightning in the women's SBL grand final for 2014 on Friday night at the WA Basketball Centre and it's a fitting contest between the two dominant teams of the season.

The Flames won their first 17 matches of the 2014 regular season before ending up with a 20-2 record to be the minor premiers, and now have advanced to the grand final following four straight playoff wins over the Willetton Tigers and Kalamunda Eastern Suns.

However, the Lightning have kept pace with the Flames throughout 2014 and ended up with a 19-3 record and now have also won four straight playoff games against the Mandurah Magic and Joondalup Wolves to be on a 13-game winning streak entering the grand final.

That sets up a tantalising grand final meeting on Friday night with clearly the two most outstanding teams in the women's SBL for 2014 doing battle.

Then to top it off the two standout players in Rockingham's Samantha Whitcomb and Lakeside's Kari Pickens will be there too, and that all leads Petrik simply to look forward to being part of the contest and aiming to win the club's first ever SBL championship.

"The fact that both clubs have only lost five games combined for all of 2014 is extraordinary. And of those five, two came from our regular season contests where one of us had to lose. So we've only lost three games for the year combined against the rest of the league," Petrik said.

"Clearly the two best players in the league will be on show come Friday in Whitcomb and Pickens. One will win MVP, the other will finish clear second. I've coached Sam for two years and I wouldn't be able to tell people the best way to guard her, she does a bit of everything really well.

"Whereas with Pickens we all know she is going to take a bounce or two and pull up. The problem is she never misses, and when she's 6'2 or whatever and shoots it from a meter above her head, you're not going to stop it too often."

With the Flames and Lightning both such outstanding teams and both at the top of their games, Petrik knows that it's going to be only small things where one team can get on top of the other that could end up deciding the result.

He does feel that their respective semi-final opponents might slightly help his Flames over the Lightning but any talk of the 2012 losing grand final to South West Slammers having any impact either way is something he is having nothing of.

"At this time of year you're looking for all the one percenters you can," Petrik said.

"We're lucky in the fact we just finished with the Suns, and they play a similar style and have a similar motion offence to the Lightning; whereas Lakeside have to go from the Wolves to us, and we're completely different sides with how we go about it, so maybe that helps.

"The 2012 grand final loss won't come into it at all. We surprised ourselves with how far we got that year, so there won't be any bad memories from that day.

"The positive is that we gained a ton of experience that day with how it all works, playing in front of that large but neutral crowd, different warm up and halftime routines etc, so we should be better for the run."

Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Mick Cronin


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