Flames stay hot to claim National title

THE Rockingham Flames have kept their strong form rolling over the weekend, emerging victorious in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 National Finals and surfacing as the country’s best men’s basketball team for 2022 after defeating the Frankston Blues 85-74 on Sunday afternoon.

Just one week after winning its first ever title in the NBL1 West competition, the Flames headed to Victoria to take on the nation’s strongest performers for the year, with sides coming from all five of the NBL1’s competitions. Given these sides had not matched up in 2022, it was difficult to predict a favourite, as the team with the best record after two days awarded a spot in the championship game.

Rockingham kicked things off for its Nationals campaign after taking down the South Adelaide Panthers on Friday night, who were the winners of the NBL1 South Men’s competition. The Flames made it evident in that contest that their potent offence was here to stay, as they proved too much for the Panthers to handle.

Saturday night saw the Flames scheduled to take on the Hobart Chargers, who had also enjoyed a strong campaign in the NBL1 South Men’s division. Once again, Rockingham’s scoring power could not be contained by the Hobart defence, as they scored over 100 points behind a balanced number of contributors.

The win saw the Flames locked in for the title game, set to take on the Frankston Blues, who too were unbeaten from their two outings. Rockingham would also need to continue to get the job done without season and finals MVP Devondrick Walker, who recently signed with the Brisbane Bullets in the NBL and has been suiting up for them in a few pre-season matches.

Rockingham Flames 28 | 12 | 25 | 20 | (85)
Frankston Blues 19 | 26 | 18 | 11 (74)

It was a see-sawing affair that had quite a few momentum swings. For a considerable portion of the contest, the Blues looked as if they were going to get the job done. However, the Flames dominated the final term and sealed the result.

Rockingham got off to a hot start, bursting out of the gates and jumping out to a nine-point scoreboard advantage, behind the efforts of Marshall Nelson and skipper Ryan Godfrey. The Blues were performing admirably, but could not contain the scoring power of the Flames.

The second term was a much improved effort from the Blues on the defensive end, holding the Flames to just 12 points as they adjusted their matchups to slow down the work of Rockingham’s big guns. Suddenly, half time saw the Blues hold a five-point lead and a real grip on the game heading into the final two quarters.

In the third term, the Flames were able to get back on top, albeit in a bit tougher fashion than their first quarter dominance. Half time adjustments saw some quicker ball movement from Rockingham, forcing the Frankston on the back foot and into some pressured rotations. At the final change, the Flames held a two-point lead, and it looked like the match could go either way.

The final period completely belonged to Rockingham, who got both defence and offence on a roll and broke away on the scoreboard. While it was not their highest scoring period of the match, the Flames got on top as the two sides traded triples, and when the Blues were forced to foul, composure from the Western Australians saw the result confirmed.

Godfrey topped off his captain’s performance with the Grand Final MVP award, thanks to his 23 points, five rebounds and three assists. He stood up when the game was on the line and nailed some crucial shots from the charity stripe. Honestly, you could have flipped a coin between him and Nelson for the strongest performer in the match. The latter topped the scorers for the winners with a statline of 26 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Blues were well served by Adrio Bailey, who helped his side jump out to a lead in the second quarter and kept them in the match in the second half. His double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds were massive and had his side won, he was a lock for the MVP award.

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