It was always going to be a tough trip to Mandurah for the Cockburn Cougars on Friday night and by half-time in the Men’s game it looked like being a disastrous evening, but the second half fightback showed just what the team is capable of.
It was a Friday night trip to Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre for the Cougars in Round 10 of the NBL1 West season and it always shaped as being two pivotal match ups with all four teams involved holding positions inside the top eight.
The night didn’t get off to the ideal start, though, for the Cougars with the Magic Women ending up winning 89-63 on their home floor.
Jewel Williams ended up top-scoring for Cockburn with 13 points and two assists while Jessie Edwards finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Kat Tudor 11 points and four boards, and Alina Hartmann seven points and five rebounds.
That led into the Men’s contest and it was shaping up as being a horror night for the Cougars with the way the match got underway.
Magic import Dequan Abrom produced one of the most spectacular starts to a game imaginable and there was little the Cougars could do to stop the remarkable roll he went on.
By the end of the first quarter, he had nailed all seven of his three-point attempts but had also shown an ability to get to the rack on his way to 28 points with Mandurah leading 36-21 on the back of that.
He couldn’t quite maintain that pace in the second quarter but still by half-time he had 35 points to his name and had made eight three-pointers.
However, Cockburn had done well to weather the storm and to only trail by 15 points at the major break with 22 points from Carter Skaggs pivotal in them avoiding being blown away by the Abrom onslaught.
Having taken those 58 points in the first half from the Magic, the Cougars stuck to their guns and then ended up dominating the second half including 34 points of their own to 16 in the third period to be leading 77-74 heading into the fourth quarter.
Cockburn went on with the job in the fourth quarter too to claim the morale boosting win 105-99 given what they were able to withstand in the first half away from home.
It makes it consecutive wins for the Cougars on the back of handing Geraldton its first loss to see them improve to a 7-5 record on the season.
Carter Skaggs kept Cockburn in the contest with first half performance and while he only added five points in the second half, he was still instrumental in the win with 27 points and seven rebounds on shooting 6/11 from three-point range.
Gavin Field led the charge for the Cougars in the second half to end up with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists on 7/10 shooting with Josh Hunt contributing 15 points and four assists against his former team.
Paschal Chukwu was a good presence inside for Cockburn with 11 points and 13 rebounds despite playing just 20 minutes with Seva Chan finishing with eight points and four assists as he resumed his career long point guard rivalry with Kyle Armour.
Cougars coach Andrew Cooper obviously would have preferred not to see Abrom go off like he did with those 28 points in the first quarter on the way to 42 for the game, but he felt his team had done well to limit the damage by half-time.
What he needed to do was get his players to believe that they were in a good position going into the second half having taken the best shot from Mandurah, and he was delighted especially with how his second unit stood up to contribute to the standout win in the end.
“First of all, Abrom was in one of those classic zone moments early in that game and I think that although he was good, I don’t think we respected him enough and certainly didn’t adjust quick enough to do it,” Cooper said.
“But we sort of spoke at half-time that we thought we had withstood everything they had thrown at us and were only down by 15. In a way we were sort of happy with that and I had to explain to them that I don’t know if they can throw much more at us.
“I challenged the group and I challenge individuals that if we want to be a top team these are the sort of things we need to deal with, and we have to be better. I told them it was up to them because we can’t do much more from the sidelines so it was up to them to make the choice whether they want to win or want to lose.
“Josh Hunt was brilliant in the second half defensively and the biggest thing for us was our second group, our players six through 11. At one point of the game in the third quarter my most experienced player on the court might have been Nathan Pond.
“For us that was big that we could get some rest into our stars and get our second group out there led by Clifford to step up and still play out the rest of the quarter, and get us in front.
“That was the biggest thing for us and defensively we stepped up, and didn’t just step back and allow them to do what they wanted. We took it to them and I think that’s what got us there in the end.”