The Cockburn Cougars are back home to Wally Hagan Stadium this Saturday night to host the Lakeside Lightning with the Women looking to hit back and the Men out to continue an impressive run of form.
With both Cougars teams occupying positions inside the top eight entering Round 11 of the 2022 NBL1 West season, the return to Wally Hagan Stadium to play the Lightning on Saturday night presents two crucial match ups for Cockburn.
The Women’s clash will tip-off at 5.30pm on Saturday evening with the Cougars coming into the game in fifth position with a 6-4 record while the Lightning aren’t far behind in seventh spot at 5-5.
Cockburn comes into the game having lost its past two matches to the Joondalup Wolves two weeks ago by 12 points and then last Friday to the Mandurah Magic by 26 – both those games were away from home.
That means the Cougars will be determined to bounce back on Saturday at Wally Hagan Stadium against a Lightning team they will be playing for the first time in 2022, and who is also coming off a loss to Mandurah last Saturday night.
With both teams having lost to the Magic in Round 10 coming into this meeting and looking to bounce back to consolidate their playoff positions, it should be a terrific contest.
That leads into the Men’s battle between the Cougars and Lightning tipping off at 7.30pm with Cockburn marking their return to Wally Hagan Stadium on the back of a strong run of form.
While the Cougars have won three of the last four games including a tremendous come from behind win in Mandurah last Friday night, it easily could have been four consecutive wins coming into this Saturday’s clash against Lakeside.
The Cougars now hold a 7-5 record on the season but coach Andrew Cooper knows that record could easily been better especially after missed golden opportunities on the road to the Geraldton Buccaneers and Joondalup Wolves.
Having lost to the league-leading Buccs in Geraldton in overtime without captain Gavin Field, it was the return encounter two weeks ago at Wally Hagan Stadium that is what Cooper hopes was the start of his realising their potential.
Carter Skaggs fired Cockburn to a big early lead and then they without stood the Buccaneers fight back to hand them a first loss of the 2022 season which saw the Cougars build on last Friday in Mandurah to come from behind to beat the Magic.
“It should give us that belief because we definitely should have also beat them up in Geraldton, and Dayle Joseph is a great coach and I don’t think he would be backward in coming forward in thinking that was one that they might have sneaked away with,” Cooper said.
“There were a few mistakes down the stretch by our young guys and they felt a bit aggrieved by that so there was a bit of a feeling of redemption going into that game. We were up quite comfortably but credit to Dayle and his team, and guys like Meunier and Coleman especially were great in that second half.
“They are a great, tough outfit but on the back of Carter’s first half which was amazing we were up big, but things were a bit different in the second half. If the boys can’t get belief out of that then I don’t know what will give it to them.
“Beating a team that nobody else has beaten and had just beaten Warwick the night before with a big comeback. Those are the self-belief moments we can keep falling back on to say that there’s no reason we can’t be the best team in the whole league or win the whole thing.”
Reflecting back on the season so far and it’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Cougars. They won the first four matches, lost the next four and now have been in terrific form again winning three of the past four.
Carter Skaggs is now finding his groove in the league as a shooter and scorer averaging 19.8 points a game while Paschal Chukwu is providing a strong inside presence with 10.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Gavin Field is leading from the front once again with 17.8 points a game while Seva Chan is running the point with 10.8 points and 5.6 assists.
Then you have Matt Clifford, Josh Hunt, Keegan Phillips, Hayden Bell, Nathan Pond, Daniel Rogers and over the past three matches Luke Phillips all playing important roles.
Cooper always knew it would take a bit of time for everything to click for the Cougars especially bringing in the two new imports, but has liked how things have been coming together in recent weeks.
“To tell you the truth and we’ve sat down as a group and talked about it, and we realise we could easily be 9-3 right now,” Cooper said.
“The only team that we haven’t been in the game against was Rockingham, every other game we’ve either been in front at half-time or had an opportunity to win at three quarter-time. It was just a matter of finding our feet a little bit and Carter and Paschal were still fitting into the system.
“We certainly put a big focus on getting the offensive end right because they were a little bit behind the eight ball with how we did stuff. We just focused very heavily on us and have gone away on worrying so much about on the opposition.
“The Redbacks was our first game where we played 40 minutes of basketball and in the end it showed on the scoreboard. A similar thing happened last year when we went on that nine-game winning streak.
“It’s just a matter of us believing in what we can do and that’s sort of what happened with that Redbacks. We 100 per cent should have won that Redbacks game, the boys knew that was one that got away from us and in a tight season those are the ones that can hurt you.
“But to step up and beat Geraldton the next day was a huge learning curve and self-belief moment. We have spoken about this as a group and I don’t know how many games we need to prove to ourselves that we can match it with the best teams in the league, and be one of them ourselves.
“I think that’s the thing with a young group is that you need that bit of belief, and to get them to understand their roles and that small roles can be big in the context of games and seasons.”
The Cougars now attempt to keep their impressive form going this Saturday night at home to the Lightning. While Lakeside might be struggling so far this season at 2-9, there’s no chance Cooper or anyone at Cockburn will be taking them lightly.
“I’ve watched a bit of them over the last couple of weeks and they’ve got some talent, and probably just need to gel a bit more and that’s the hard part when you bring in imports late,” Cooper said.
“They are going to be tricky, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s something that I’ll make very clear with the group if they don’t already know it that we can’t underestimate them by any means. I fall back on us last year and we were 2-9 halfway through the season and then went on a nine-game winning streak.
“They’ve obviously got the talent with Vaughn, Jackson and Taliaferro, and then they’ve got some good other locals and Reath is an interesting one too and he’s someone to be aware of. On paper I guess it looks like Cockburn should win this easily but I would certainly not underestimate them or anyone else in this league to be honest.”