The Cockburn Cougars teams will embark on their first (women) and second (men) double-headers of the NBL1 West season this weekend away to the Perth Redbacks on Friday night before playing host to the East Perth Eagles on Sunday.
It all gets underway on Friday night at Belmont Oasis with the Cougars playing the Perth Redbacks with the women’s match tipping-off at 6.30pm followed by the men’s contest at 8.30pm.
Then on Sunday and it’s back to Wally Hagan Stadium for the Cougars to play host to the East Perth Eagles. The women’s clash begins at 1pm followed by the men’s match up at 3pm.
The Cockburn Cougars women put their perfect record this season on the line with the double-header weekend against the Perth Redbacks and East Perth Eagles.
First up for the Cougars is a clash against the Redbacks at Belmont Oasis and that means taking on an opponent who has plenty going on right now.
The Cougars are the lone team in the NBL1 West still yet to taste a loss in 2023 having won their opening six matches in supremely impressive fashion, including handing the Joondalup Wolves their only defeat.
That included a 66-point win last Friday night at home against the South West Slammers in the 200th game for captain Kirsty Whitfield.
Now on Friday night the challenge ahead of the Cougars is taking on a team with their backs against the wall. The Redbacks have lost seven of their eight matches this season and have now got a change in coach with Michelle Fletcher standing down and assistant Jason Smith taking over in a caretaker capacity.
Since handing the Mandurah Magic the first loss of their season in their lone win, the Redbacks lost in Kalgoorlie to the Goldfields Giants and then were hammered by the Rockingham Flames last week by 52 points in Fletcher’s last game in charge.
However, it was also the first game for the Redbacks of 208-game WNBL veteran centre Lauren Scherf who will now pose a challenge for the Cougars this Friday night.
For Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites, he’s fully aware you can’t take the Redbacks lightly even if they haven’t quite hit their straps.
“We know the Flames took care of them fairly comfortably on Saturday night, but we aren’t silly, we know they will be better with Lauren having another week of training with them, and making some adjustments from the weekend,” Thwaites said.
“We’ll prepare for them like anybody else, be ready for Lauren, and also know Miki (Pirini) is playing some really nice basketball at the moment as well. We won’t take them for granted and it’s nice to head into a double where we get a day in between, and finally get tested with a couple of games on a weekend.”
What Friday night’s match up does deliver is a battle of Perth Lynx teammates Jessie Edwards and Scherf.
Edwards is having another fine season with the Cougars with 17.2 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, but Thwaites is looking for the two centres to virtually cancel each other out and he’ll then hope he has other stars step up.
“It is going to fun to watch certainly from a crowd perspective and those who want to check it out on Friday night,” he said.
“From my end, they probably cancel each other out which is nice.
“Then it’s a question of where else the game is going to be won and that’s where players like Steph Gorman, Jewel Williams and Sarah Mortensen, who are tough match ups, step up to be the game winners.”
The Cougars will then turn their focus to the East Perth Eagles on Sunday at Wally Hagan Stadium.
The Eagles will have already played against the Goldfields Giants on Saturday night before coming to Cockburn and they enter Round 8 with a 3-6 record fresh off a 22-point win against the Slammers.
However, with a team featuring the likes of Maddie Allen, Madison Torresin, Sylwia Bujniak, Tessa Morrison and the experienced Taylor Roberts, Thwaites knows they can’t be underestimated.
“They’re a really tricky one to get a feel for because they haven’t had a full team all year, and we’re not sure who they will have available on Sunday,” Thwaites said.
“They played Slammers the night after we did on the weekend and they had a near full team but were still missing Sam Lubcke.
“I’ll watch their game on Saturday before we play them and get another feel for who’s playing but we won’t take them for granted. We know they can match it with anybody when they get going and it’s one we’ll watch closely.”
The Cockburn Cougars men will be attempting to make it consecutive wins for the first time this season with the testing double against two supremely talented teams from the Perth Redbacks and East Perth Eagles.
Cockburn recorded its second win of the season last Friday night in emphatic fashion beating the South West Slammers by 38 points.
There was a lot to like in the win not only with the 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists from Courtney Alexander II, but also the 17 points and five assists from Josh Hunt, 12 points and six rebounds from Keegan Phillips, and 11 points each from Taj Benning, Gavin Field and Luke Phillips.
Kieran Berry also had eight points and six assists in his 100th game in the league in the continued absence of Seva Chan with the Cougars now looking to build on that momentum in this weekend’s double-header.
The first challenge for Cockburn is against the Redbacks at Belmont Oasis on Friday night.
That’s a Redbacks team who is fresh of snapping the almost year-long winning streak of the Rockingham Flames and they did it in emphatic fashion with the 79-52 victory at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
That means it’s quite the challenge for the Cougars to try and topple them on Friday night with point guard Bryton Hobbs fresh off 68 points in his last two games. Tevin Jackson, Brian Voelkel, Sioeli Vaiangina, Louis Timms and Maris Colton are all contributing well too.
Cougars coach Andrew Cooper knows the challenge that awaits, but is looking forward to it.
“I watched their last game from the comfort of my lounge and they were very good especially defensively,” Cooper said.
“I’m sure that Rockingham were thinking in that first half that they had a lot of shots that were wide open that they would normally be confident in making. They didn’t fall and that’s Rockingham’s style of play that they live and die by, but Redbacks were still good.
“They played a very controlled offence and Nixy obviously had a game plan going in and it looks like they executed it well against a very good team. They’ve got some star players there’s no doubt about it so it’s definitely going to be tough for us.”
The Cougars will then turn their attention to taking on the East Perth Eagles on Sunday at Wally Hagan Stadium.
Both teams won big over the South West Slammers last week with East Perth to also play the Goldfields Giants this Saturday night before taking on the Cougars on Sunday.
While East Perth has only one win so far, a squad featuring two imports Taylor Young and Naaman Hightower, two former imports Lee Roberts and Justin King, and the supremely talented Jerami Grace and Sebit Reath means they aren’t short in firepower.
Cooper is fully aware of that but will be hoping for a strong showing at home on Sunday.
“To be honest there aren’t any easy games in the men’s comp this year. Even Mandurah have added another player and they are going to be dangerous,” Cooper said.
“East Perth has definitely got on paper a lot of talent. If they can string it together they are going to be very difficult. They’ve got length and talent right across the floor, and some good veterans and couple of good young guys as well.
“It’s definitely going to be tough but when you play at this level, if every game’s a tough one then it’s probably what you want really.”