Women's SBL Grand Final Preview
THE dominant teams from all season featuring the two leading MVP candidates and the best offensive club up against the best defensive unit all point to a fascinating women's SBL grand final between the Rockingham Flames and Lakeside Lightning.
The Orange Autos Rockingham Flames play the Lakeside Lightning in the women's SBL grand final for 2014 this Friday night at the WA Basketball Centre with tip-off to take place at 7.30pm.
The Flames lost just two matches and the Lightning three all season long so have been the dominant women's teams of 2014 while also splitting wins against one another along the way.
The Flames and Lightning met twice during the regular season with Rockingham winning the opening encounter in Week 7 at Mike Barnett Sports Complex 76-61 before Lakeside got one back in Week 18 with a 80-71 victory at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Rockingham now enters the grand final on a six-game winning streak and Lakeside on a 13-game winning run as well.
Right throughout the season, the Flames were the standout offensive team averaging 85.2 points a game while the Lightning were the best defensively conceding just 62.6 points.
However, the Flames were also the second best team defensively at 64.1 points per game while the Lightning were second offensively at 80.3 points a match.
Then there are the stars of the show in the form of MVP candidates Samantha Whitcomb from the Flames and Kari Pickens from the Lightning.
Whitcomb has averaged 23.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals throughout the season but has received plenty of support from the likes of Darcee Garbin, Jacinta Bourne, Talisia Bourne, Tarsha Fletcher and Kaye Tucker.
The grand final will be the 350th and last appearance in the SBL for Tucker as well.
Pickens has been in particularly devastating form of late but over the course of the season she has averaged 21.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game.
She too has received plenty of help from Krystal Stoneking, Emily Fielding, Courtney Byrnes, Courtney Bayliss, Ashleigh Grant and veteran Jess Van Schie.
The Rockingham Flames have only ever made one previous SBL grand final in either women's or men's action and that was when the Lady Flames made a stirring run into the 2012 championship decider.
However, that night didn’t turn out to be a memorable one for the Flames with the South West Slammers handing them an 85-48 hammering.
Despite the lack of the ultimate success since the Rockingham women joined the SBL in 1992, the Flames have been a consistently strong and competitive outfit.
They have finished in the top eight in 19 of their 22 previous seasons in the women's SBL and the past three years now has seen a tremendous turnaround.
The Flames had a disastrous 2011 season winning just two games but then made that stirring run to the 2012 grand final, were a strong team again last year finishing the regular season in second position in the standings and now have been a dominant force throughout 2014.
Rockingham won its opening 17 matches of the season by an average winning margin of 22.5 points.
The Flames then went on to finish the regular season with a 20-2 record to claim the minor premiership and then qualify for the grand final with two-nil playoff series victories over the Willetton Tigers and Kalamunda Eastern Suns respectively.
While the Lakeside Lightning men have won four SBL titles in the past nine years, the women have tasted the ultimate success only the once.
The Lightning women made their first grand final appearance back in 2002 with the result being a 29-point loss at the hands of the Perry Lakes Hawks before Lakeside got back there in 2006, and this time prevailed with a 56-53 victory over the Mandurah Magic to claim the championship.
Lakeside only entered the women's SBL in 2001 and despite winning just the one title and making the grand final twice previously, have only once not finished in the top eight in their existence and that was back in 2008.
Since then the Lightning have been building back towards trying to win a second championship and everything has now come together impressively in 2014.
The Lightning opened the 2014 season with six straight wins before that first loss to the Flames in Rockingham which led into back-to-back losses to the Cougars.
Lakeside then went on another four-game winning run before suffering their last defeat at the hands of the Stirling Senators at Warwick Leisure Centre in Week 11.
Since then, the Lightning won their last nine matches of the regular season and have now won all four playoff matches against the Mandurah Magic and Joondalup Wolves to secure a grand final appearance.
The women's SBL grand final for 2014 will be broadcast live on 98five Sonshine FM from 7.15pm. It can be either heard on 98.5 on the FM dial or online at www.98five.com.
WOMEN'S SBL GRAND FINAL
Orange Autos Rockingham Flames v Lakeside Lightning, WA Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Mick Cronin