The Cockburn Cougars make the trip south to take on the South West Slammers on Friday night in Round 16 of the NBL1 West in what is the penultimate weekend of the 2023 season.
The Cougars play the Slammers at Eaton Recreation Centre on Friday night in Round 16 NBL1 West action with the women’s match to tip-off at 6.30pm with the men’s game to follow at 8.30pm.
It’s an important game for both Cockburn teams too with the women attempting to stay in top spot and the men to keep the playoffs dream alive.
The Cockburn Cougars women make their last road trip of the season on Friday night to take on the bottom placed South West Slammers with the chance to lock away at least a top two position.
With two games of the regular season remaining, the Cougars just need to keep winning and they can’t be denied history by winning the club’s first ever women’s regular season championship by finishing in first place.
Cockburn enters Friday night’s match up with the Slammers at Eaton Recreation Centre still holding onto first place in the NBL1 West with a 16-2 record despite a loss to Willetton last Saturday night before bouncing back to beat Goldfields on Sunday.
That means that Friday night’s match up is a top against bottom affair with the Slammers having currently lost all 17 of their matches this season to be on a 29-game losing streak dating back to last year and 70 of the last 71 going back further.
However, that doesn’t mean the Cougars can afford to take anything for granted and they do have some dangerous players including player-coach and Perth Lynx guard Alex Ciabattoni, championship winner Paris Duffield and Kate Williams, Alexis Donovan and Jasmine Barrett.
For Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites, there will certainly be no taking the match up lightly especially with two games of the season remaining to get ready for the playoff campaign.
“Nothing’s set in stone in terms of the ladder. If we drop a game here we can still finish as low as third so we can take nothing for granted and we do want to keep getting better,” Thwaites said.
“For us it’s about desperation and details. They’re the words I keep using with the girls. It’s about how desperate are we for this and how much does the detail matter.
“That’s going to be the language over the next two weeks and we know particularly the last game against Kalamunda they could still be fighting for a playoff place. So they will come into our place raring to go and it’s about desperation and detail. Those are the two words I’ll keep using.”
The Cockburn Cougars men stayed just alive in the NBL1 West playoff hunt last weekend despite being increasingly shorthanded and now to continue to be in the race, it’s a must-win Friday night battle with the South West Slammers.
Despite being without Keegan and Luke Phillips along with Charlie Dimmock last weekend, not having Kieran Berry on Friday night and then losing Gavin Field for the last seven quarters, the Cougars did a terrific job to keep their season alive.
Despite all that, it was a frustrating narrow loss from a winning position against the playoff bound Perth Redbacks on Saturday night before the Cougars fought through for a hard earned and crucial win against the Goldfields Giants on Sunday.
That improved the Cougars to an 8-12 record on the season with two games remaining with the one spot in the top eight still up for grabs and that’s currently occupied by the Lakeside Lightning who are currently 9-10.
The Lightning finish their season with games against the Warwick Senators, Joondalup Wolves and Mandurah Magic so for the Cougars to replace them in that eighth spot they need to beat the Slammers and then the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, and hope Lakeside keeps on losing.
While there’s still hope there, the Cougars will be throwing everything at attempting to break into the top eight and that quest begins this Friday night against the Slammers at Eaton Recreation Centre.
South West is out of the playoff race with a 3-16 record having lost its past six matches and Cockburn did beat them 125-87 back on May 12 at Wally Hagan Stadium.
However, with the all-round talents of Buay Tuach, in the inside presence of Ben Stevens and some other handy players, the Slammers won’t be about to hand the Cougars anything on Friday night.
Cockburn coach Andrew Cooper knows all he can do is focus on winning these last two games and then hoping some other things fall their way in terms of Lakeside losing.
“We’ve dug a hole for ourselves there’s nothing we can do about that now, all we can do is win the last couple of games and hope the results go our way,” Cooper said.
“I know that Lakeside have got a pretty tough run and I’m hoping that our old mate Mark Utley can do us a favour on that last Friday night down in Mandurah and Abrom can go for 50 and Ray can turn back the clock and have a big night, and a few of the young ones can get up.
“But all we can do is control what we can do and that’s going to be a tough one against Bunbury in Bunbury on a Friday night this week. And then we’ve got to deal with Kalamunda on that last night. All we can do is just win and see what happens from there.”
On the personnel front, Cooper is expecting to have everyone available on Friday night barring Luke Phillips and Charlie Dimmock which should only help matters in attempting to claim the must have victory.
“Gav’s still being assessed this week so we’ll wait and see but we’re pretty confident with Keegan that he’ll be back this week,” Cooper said.
“We’re pretty confident KB will be 100 per cent and that’s all touch wood because in the matter of a few days with Cockburn in 2023 anything can happen for us.
“But at this point in time, we’ll have a light week on the track for training because we have to but I think we’ll be as close to full strength as we can get for this Friday night with everyone bar Luke Phillips available.”