It shapes as the biggest evening in the NBL1 West season so far on Saturday when the Cockburn Cougars head north to HBF Arena to face the Joondalup Wolves in two tantalising Round 9 matches.
The evening begins at HBF Arena Joondalup with the top two women’s teams doing battle with the Cougars putting their undefeated record for the 2023 season on the line up against the second placed Wolves. The match tips-off at 5pm.
Then next up is the Cougars men taking on the sixth placed Wolfpack with Cockburn having the chance to continue the improved recent form and to make it consecutive victories for the first time this season. The game begins at 7pm.
Saturday evening at HBF Arena looms as playing host to the game of the NBL1 West women’s season to date when the Cockburn Cougars head north to take on the Joondalup Wolves in the battle of the top two teams.
The Cougars arrive at HBF Arena as the lone undefeated team remaining in the NBL1 West competition and they put that record on the line up against the second placed Wolves on Saturday evening.
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this month after it was the Cougars who handed the Wolfpack their first defeat of the season back on May 6 at Wally Hagan Stadium with the 84-79 victory.
If that contest is anything to go by, then Saturday’s return encounter at HBF Arena is going to be a cracking, dramatic, eventful and high quality affair.
There’s exciting match ups all over the floor too with both teams having outstanding floor generals with Jewel Williams for the Cougars and Robbi Ryan for the Wolves.
The battle of bigs will be fascinating too between Jessie Edwards and Teige Morrell, and that’s just the beginning of what to look out for.
The raw numbers suggests that not much separates the two teams either with the Cougars averaging 95.1 points per game compared to the Wolves’ 90.1 while Cockburn gives up 63.5 a game and Joondalup 63.4.
With the Cougars sitting on a perfect 8-0 record and the Wolfpack just behind at 10-1, it looms as a significant match up and Cockburn coach Tyrone Thwaites is looking forward to it, but knows it’s not the be all and end all at Round 9.
“I think our community, the basketball community and the Joondalup community should be excited for a game of outstanding women’s basketball coming their way on Saturday night,” Thwaites said.
“It’s one versus two and obviously we got the better of them at our place, but we know it’s going to be a lot different going back up there. The reality is that as big as Saturday night is, it’s not the be all and end all.
“We would like to think we’re the favourites, which is unfamiliar territory for a Cougars women’s team against a top two team, but we also know it’s a huge test to win in Joondalup against a well-coached and talented group.
“For us, it’s about moving in the right direction every time we step out on the floor.”
What it also does is presents the last chance for the Cougars players to play at HBF Arena Joondalup where the NBL1 National Finals will be held. That won’t be a focus for Thwaites or his players, but it might be a nice preparation for a potential reward for what they are doing later in the year.
“They all know that the National Finals will be played at Joondalup later this year and it might be in the back of their minds, but it certainly won’t be something that will be stated by me or any of the coaches,” Thwaites said.
“There’s a long way to go between now and then, and there’s a big difference between being 8-0 and making it to a first ever Grand Final as a club.
“That’s a massive jump in itself but obviously getting to play at Joondalup where the National Finals will be held is a bonus, but we know we are playing a very good team and we’ll have to be at our best.
“We have been for a little while now so we will be ready to take it to them on their home court.”
The Cockburn Cougars men will look to continue their best run of form of the season and string wins together for the first time when they take on the Joondalup Wolves also on Saturday night at HBF Arena.
Last time the teams met earlier this month and it was a great missed opportunity from Cockburn to make a statement with a win against Joondalup, with the Wolves ending up prevailing 106-101 at Wally Hagan Stadium.
The Cougars now come into Saturday night’s match up on the back of beating the East Perth Eagles 116-86 in a dominant showing on Sunday at home two days after what was ever so close to another statement win against the Perth Redbacks at Belmont Oasis.
Cockburn has won three of its past five matches and the two losses in that time to the Wolves and Redbacks could have easily gone the other way so it’s a strong run of form the Cougars are on.
That’s coincided with a brilliant stretch from impressive and exciting big Courtney Alexander who is averaging 26.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over the past four matches with fellow import Taj Benning fresh off 46 points and six assists in the two games in Round 8.
With Keegan and Luke Phillips in strong form as well, Kieran Berry relishing his role as starting point guard in the absence of Seva Chan, and Josh Hunt and captain Gavin Field contributing strongly, things are coming together for the Cougars.
Coach Andrew Cooper was always confident things would come together as they are at the moment but he knows they have to continue to improve to keep stringing the wins together.
“This is why we brought Taj and Courtney into the team because they offer us something a little bit different to what we had last year,” Cooper said.
“Our offence is better than what it was last year but our defence has been lacking, and now it’s starting to improve. We can probably grow more from the defensive end and be able to implement what we want there to hopefully shut teams down.
“At the same time, we look at the schedule moving forward and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend with Joondalup this weekend and then away to Kalgoorlie. But at the end of the day, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
“I know that’s an old cliché, but it really is like that this year. Every team is stronger than last year and we need to step up and have the ability to beat those teams.”
Looking ahead to Saturday night’s match up, Cooper just hopes they can get close to playing a full 40 minutes of what they are trying to deliver to iron out some mistakes in an effort to beat the Wolves for the first time since Game 2 of the 2017 semi finals.
“On our day, I think we can beat anybody in the league and there’s a lot of teams thinking the same way,” Cooper said.
“If we get it right and we can fix those little one percent that we tend to make where we have a couple of minutes of lapses in every quarter, that’s where we are trying to improve.
“We’re putting certain things in place in training sessions to hopefully fix those things so that moving forward we can play some full 40-minute games. If we can do that and as long as we put ourselves in positions to win games, then we can win them.”