Cockburn Cougars men’s coach Andrew Cooper and his playing squad haven’t shied away from a disappointing showing in Saturday night’s NBL1 West qualifying final in Geraldton but their focus is now on earning a crack at Rockingham this Saturday night.
The Cougars entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak and had played well twice against the Geraldton Buccaneers twice during the NBL1 West, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday night.
The two teams had played two fascinating match ups throughout the regular season with Geraldton coming from behind to win at home over Cockburn in the first clash before the Cougars handed the Buccs their first defeat of 2022 down at Wally Hagan Stadium.
It was a large and vocal home crowd of more than 1000 people in the building to cheer on the Buccs on Saturday night and they liked what they saw from the outset.
After Cockburn led by four in the opening stages, Geraldton took right over the contest in stunning fashion to deliver 16 consecutive points to open up a 17-point lead already by quarter-time.
It was more of the same in the early stages of the second quarter and scoring seven straight points again saw the lead balloon to 30 points, and really the game was over as a contest by that stage.
The margin stayed at a similar level for most of the rest of the evening with the Buccaneers going on to cruise to the 101-70 victory.
The Cougars still have a second chance to reach a preliminary final by hosting the Warwick Senators in a semi-final this Thursday night.
Gavin Field did what he could to try and will Cockburn back into the contest finishing with 18 points and three assists on shooting 4/8 from long-range.
Luke Phillips continued his impressive second half to the season for Cockburn as well with another 13 points and four rebounds with Seva Chan contributing 12 points and five assists, Paschal Chukwu eight points and 12 rebounds, and Carter Skaggs seven points and five boards.
Cougars coach Andrew Cooper took responsibility for the loss himself and his players have put their hands up too, but now that it’s behind them, all they can focus on is attempting to bounce back on Thursday night.
“Not to take anything away from Geraldton at all because they were great and that’s the best game I’ve seen Coleman play, but at the end of the day the words I used to the players afterwards, and they agreed, was that we embarrassed ourselves,” Cooper said.
“We embarrassed ourselves and we embarrassed our club because that performance we put out on the night was just not acceptable or good enough. We don’t mind losing to a better team and Geraldton was definitely better, but that first quarter we didn’t come to play.
“Our best players and our leaders didn’t play to the standards that we expect and the buck stops with me ultimately, and from that perspective I probably didn’t coach the game well enough.
“The players didn’t play well enough either and to compound all that to be in that environment in Geraldton, it just all turned out as badly as it could. Having said that, that’s an environment you might never get to play in again in your career and the players should be looking to embrace those experiences.
“You need to learn how to use that energy to your advantage and there’s no doubt if we get through Warwick on Thursday, we’ll face the exact same environment in Rockingham on Saturday. It wasn’t a great night obviously, we move on to another day luckily.”
The Cougars now have a short turnaround to hosting the Senators on Thursday night in a semi-final, but whether it’s a short turnaround or not, all Cooper is concerned about is how his team responds.
“I don’t think the time frame really is an issue for us. At the end of the day, the things that we got wrong were to do with us,” Cooper said.
“We don’t have to do a lot to fix it and it really comes down to us wanting it more and putting out offensive and defensively where we work a lot harder, and set the tone which we didn’t do in Geraldton. So those things shouldn’t have anything to do with a timing issue between games.
“We had a pretty brutal film review where the players were told in no uncertain terms about what we saw. It was an open and honest discussion so now the time frame won’t be an issue going into Thursday night.”