The opponents are locked in and the stage is set for the Cockburn Cougars’ tilt at history on Saturday night in the NBL1 West women’s preliminary final against the Mandurah Magic at Wally Hagan Stadium.
It’s already been a historic women’s season from the Cougars in 2023 finishing with the best record ever by a Cockburn team at 18-2 which earned them a first ever regular season championship in the process.
That led into last Saturday night’s qualifying final at Wally Hagan Stadium where the Cougars beat the Rockingham Flames 80-66 to remain at home now for this Saturday night’s preliminary final.
What the Cougars didn’t know was who the opponents would be in the preliminary final which was decided on Thursday night with the Mandurah Magic defeating the Joondalup Wolves 77-73 at HBF Arena.
That sets up a mouth watering preliminary final now at Wally Hagan Stadium this Saturday night between the Cougars and Magic. Tip-off is set for 6.30pm and the winner will advance to next Friday night’s Grand Final at Bendat Basketball Centre.
With both the Cockburn and Mandurah’s women’s team attempting to win a championship for the first time, it’s set the stage for an even more fascinating match up on Saturday night with a Grand Final spot on the line.
What’s at stake for the Cougars is an attempt to reach a women’s Grand Final for the first ever time in either the SBL or NBL1 West competition while the Magic are trying to reach a decider for the seventh time while still chasing that elusive first championship.
Adding to the intrigue and both teams have a win at home over one another during the regular season with Cockburn winning at home by 21 points but the Magic turned the tide in Mandurah to win by 32 back on June 23.
It all sets the stage for Saturday night’s match up and while Mandurah finished the regular season in sixth spot, Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites certainly wasn’t surprised to see them reach the preliminary final after wins against Perry Lakes and Joondalup.
“That’s what finals can do right, I don’t think anyone would have said that Mandurah were a write-off on Thursday night, there’s no doubt this is a good team,” Thwaites said.
“I think if you’re a betting person, you probably would have leant towards Joondalup, but Mandurah was every chance.”
Cockburn lost just two games this whole season and that was against Mandurah and Willetton where both teams came in with a distinctive game plan to be especially physically and applying great pressure to throw the Cougars off their game.
It worked in both instances with the two Cougars losses by a combined 57 points, but the reality is Cockburn won the other 19 matches including the qualifying final by an average of a dominant 32 points.
What Saturday night will provide is some fascinating match ups too with Jessie Edwards battling Hannah Hank down low with Jewel Williams likely to tackle games record holder Casey Mihovilovich.
Then there’s also the Cougars import guard from last year Kat Tudor who will be lining up for the Magic against her old team and if the league’s Best Defensive Player Steph Gorman doesn’t go to Sarah Toeaina, she’ll be locked in on Tudor.
That would set up Toeaina to take on the on-fire Cougars forward Sarah Mortensen, but no matter how the match ups pan out, Thwaites is confident his team will be better equipped this time around to handle what the Magic throw at them.
“Well, if it’s not broke then don’t fix it, they managed to get us by playing a near perfect game and forcing us into a terrible one,” he said.
“I think they will come with a very similar approach, it’s what they did to Joondalup last night and they made Teige Morrell’s life really difficult. That really suits Hannah Hank so we anticipate that will happen again on Saturday night, but we’ve been preparing for exactly that for a little while now.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they play that way but the reality is that they have to prepare for us as well, and they have a short time to do that. They also have to come and win on our court and I’m pretty sure our girls will be determined to not let what happened in Mandurah happen again.”
Now that Thursday night’s semi finals are done and the Cougars know who they are playing in Saturday night’s preliminary final, the preparations are being finalised and Thwaites can’t wait for the game to arrive.
“It’s been nervously exciting all week but the reality hits in now that we know who we’re playing, and the girls can really lock in on that. We’ll do some scout work down at the stadium as a group tonight and be ready to go tomorrow,” Thwaites said.
“It’s been a bit of a weird week without knowing who you’re playing so you focus on yourself a little bit more, and then turn the attention to the opponent on Thursday night which is what we did. We’ll really zero in on Mandurah tonight now and be fit, and raring ready to go in front of a sold out crowd tomorrow.”