The Cockburn Cougars head to Lakeside on Friday night to play on the road for the first time this NBL1 West season, with the women attempting to stay unbeaten, and the men hunting their first win of 2023.
The Cougars have started the first two weeks of the 2023 NBL1 West season at Wally Hagan Stadium against the Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames, but now in Round 3 it’s on the road to Lakeside Recreation Centre on Friday night.
The women’s match tips off at 6.30pm followed by the men’s match up at 8.30pm. The Cougars men will also back up on Sunday at 1pm by hosting the Geraldton Buccaneers at Wally Hagan Stadium.
It has been a brilliant start to the 2023 season for the Cougars women with wins by a combined 62 points against the Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames.
Cockburn will now put that unbeaten start to the season on the line up against the Lightning who have won just one of their opening three matches of the 2023 campaign.
There has been plenty to like in the way the Cougars have started the season with point guard Jewel Williams brilliant averaging 25 points, four rebounds and four assists but she’s had plenty of help.
Recruits Stephn Gorman (17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists) and Sarah Mortensen (12.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists) have been terrific as has vice-captain Jessie Edwards (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and captain Kirsty Whitfield (6.5 points, 5.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds).
That has Cockburn as one of four teams yet to lose so far in the women’s competition as they prepare to take on a Lightning team on Friday night who have opened the season beating the Perth Redbacks, but losing to the Perry Lakes Hawks and Willetton Tigers.
However, Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites is fully aware the danger the Lightning present led by dynamic guard Caitie Jones along with new import Laci Hawthorne and a pair of ex-Cougars guards Taryn Priestly and Ruby Benn.
“I’ll keep saying this every week at the moment, but we’re not taking anything for granted and we know we will have to play well to beat Lakeside on Friday night,” Thwaites said.
“They are led pretty strongly by Caitie Jones and we know she’s going to be the impactful one for them, as the energiser bunny at both ends of the floor and she is taking a ton of shots.
“She is pretty fun to watch to be honest and their import (Hawthorne) played her first game last Thursday, and she adds some real athleticism to their line-up.
“With Ruby Benn likely to get the job on Jewel too, it’s not going to be easy and it never is at Lakeside on a Friday night. Again, we don’t take anything for granted and we know we have to work on us as much as them to get the win.”
It will then be a fascinating men’s match up on Friday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre with both the Cougars and Lightning hunting their first wins of the 2023 season.
The Cougars season started in rough fashion with a 42-point loss at home to the Willetton Tigers. While they didn’t quite get the win last Thursday night, it was a vastly improved showing to lose a tight one to the defending champion Rockingham Flames.
Lakeside, meanwhile, have lost their opening three games of the season to the Redbacks, Hawks and Tigers under new coach Mike Milat.
However, it’s not a Lightning team that the Cougars can afford to take lightly with Dom Jackson so far averaging 17.0 points and 8.5 rebounds with new import Hayden Brown fresh off 21 points on debut.
Then there is the inside presence of Cairns Taipans development player Josh Davey and the veteran leadership of 273-game point guard Kyle Armour.
While Cougars coach Andrew Cooper is confident of getting that first win on Friday night, he knows it won’t be easy.
“Obviously they are sort of in the same boat as us at the moment so they’re going to be hungry and playing at home against us,” Cooper said.
“They’re an up and down team, similar to how they have been in the last couple of years under Dave but I think it’s going to be another big test for us.
“We are still confident and it doesn’t matter who we play against that on our day if we get it right we’ll be OK. We certainly are going to have to be ready to give 40 minutes of our style of basketball if we want to get the win though.”
Once the Cougars have played that game on Friday night, Cooper’s focus will turn on trying to replicate last season’s performance of beating the Geraldton Buccaneers at home, and making up for a disappointing qualifying final loss to open the 2022 playoffs.
“I think they are probably still finding their groove too with Gattorna coming in late and stuff like that,” Cooper said.
“It’s not a bad time to get them at home for us even though we know it will certainly be a big test. But right now I’m focusing just on Lakeside and trying to get that one done, and then we can focus on Geraldton late Friday night and on Saturday morning.”