Flames claim first women's SBL championship
THE Orange Autos Rockingham Flames are the women's SBL champions for the first time with their one-two punch of Samantha Whitcomb and Darcee Garbin seeing them beat the Lakeside Lightning 80-75 in Friday night's grand final.
A record standalone women's grand final crowd of 1122 turned out at the WA Basketball Centre to watch the contest between the two standout teams of 2014, but in the end the Flames ended the Lightning's 13-game winning streak to claim the championship.
It was just the second grand final that the Flames have taken part in and now they are champions for the first time while denying the Lightning's women a second title.
The Flames did not trail the entire game and led by as much as 18 points during the third quarter, but the Lightning refused to go away and did get within four points again in the final minute before Rockingham held on for the five-point victory.
The victory provided a fairytale for Kaye Tucker who now retires with an SBL championship as the Flames captain in what was her 350th appearance in the league. She had four points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals for the night despite shooting 2-of-16 from the floor.
Whitcomb and Garbin were the two stars of the night for the Flames with grand final MVP Whitcomb hitting 20 first half points on her way to 32 for the night to go with six rebounds and five steals on the back of shooting 11-of-21 from the field, and 6-of-11 from three-point territory.
Garbin was a monster inside for Rockingham finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Jacinta Bourne was a pest all night helping to force Lakeside into 21 turnovers and she ended up with 10 points and four rebounds.
Kari Pickens once again did all she could for the Lightning top-scoring with 25 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists.
Emily Fielding also scored 13 points to go with five rebounds and four assists for Lakeside with Krystal Stoneking contributing 10 points and eight boards.
Captain Jess Van Schie had seven points, seven rebounds and three assists as well for Lakeside, Ashleigh Grant seven points and five boards, and Courtney Byrnes six points and seven rebounds.
The grand final for 2014 saw the Flames score the opening four points both thanks to baskets to centre Garbin, but the Lightning then responded with four points of their own from their star Pickens.
Whitcomb then began to take over for Rockingham nailing a triple and then helping the Flames go on a 10-0 run to suddenly lead 17-6 just six minutes into the contest.
The Lightning eventually ended the Flames' run with a basket to Pickens, but not long after Rockingham scored another six points on the trot and led 24-10, and still 24-14 at the end of the opening period.
The Lightning came out on fire to open the second quarter, though, with consecutive three-pointers to Grant and Pickens.
That cut their deficit to just four points, but Tarsha Fletcher immediately responded with a three of her own and then Garbin added another basket to again see Rockingham lead 29-20.
However, a basket to Pickens and then two straight bucks to Grant brought Lakeside to within three again before Tucker and Whitcomb steadied the Flames.
The Lightning again closed to within four points just before half-time, but a late three to Whitcomb and a fast-break play to Fletcher saw the Flames hold a handy 43-34 advantage at half-time.
Garbin came out on fire to start the second half for the Flames with her team's first seven points and then when Whitcomb nailed two triples in just over a minute, and Jacinta Bourne added another suddenly Rockingham lead by 18 points and appeared to be cruising to the title.
The Lightning weren’t done with yet, though, and scored the final seven points of the third quarter thanks to Pickens, Ucich and Byrnes and trailed by just 11 points heading into the fourth period.
Lakeside was back within single figures again when Fielding opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free-throws and despite the Lightning appearing safe with a 15-point lead with just under three minutes to, it wasn’t quite done with yet.
The Lightning went on an 11-0 scoring run including threes from Byrnes and Van Schie, and then when Stoneking nailed a lay-up the deficit was just four points with 12 seconds remaining.
However, the Lightning couldn’t quite close the gap further and one more free-throw to Whitcomb sealed the deal for the Flames with Lakeside unable to get the ball up the court for another shot.
The men's SBL grand final for 2014 is virtually a sellout and will take place on Saturday night between the Sun City Plumbing Geraldton Buccaneers and the Vorian Agency East Perth Eagles at the WA Basketball Centre. Only standing room tickets (near the Ellis Room bar overlooking court one) are available through Ticketmaster.
WOMEN'S SBL GRAND FINAL 2014
Orange Autos Rockingham Flames 80 defeated Lakeside Lightning 75
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Mick Cronin