Both Cockburn Cougars teams had to Kalgoorlie for two massive and crucial clashes with the Goldfields Giants on Saturday night in the penultimate round of the 2022 NBL1 West season.
It’s Round 17 in the NBL1 West season and with the Cougars women in fifth position and looking to consolidate that spot, and the men in sixth but trying to break into the top four, plenty goes on the line on Saturday night.
It’s a first trip to Kalgoorlie for the Cougars women to take on the Goldfields Giants with that match up opening proceedings at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium at 5.30pm.
With the Giants women also fighting for their playoff lives, it looms as a fascinating contest.
It leads into a tantalising men’s contest tipping off at 7.30pm which very well could determine fourth position.
The Giants come into the game fourth at 14-6 while the Cougars are sixth at 13-7 with Cockburn coach Andrew Cooper looking forward to the challenge with full faith of what his team is capable of.
“We do have the belief within this group that we can win the whole thing, there’s no doubt about it,” Cooper said.
“We went into Geraldton and should have beaten them there without Gavin Field which no one would have expected. We’ve gone to Mandurah and won there in a hostile environment, we did the same in Warwick against a really good team.
“So we know we can match it with anyone and this is going to be a great test for us. These guys are a lot different this year than the last couple of years. They’re a lot stronger mentally and they can deal with that type of pressure especially after the first half of the season where we got run over by a couple of teams.
“We sat back and had some discussions to try and work some things out, and I just think they are a lot stronger mentally now. People like Carter Skaggs, I don’t think it would matter if people were throwing baseballs at him, he would still be up and about and receive that from the crowd.
“It probably gets him going more and more so we’re ready for everything in what should be a cracking game on Saturday night.”
Starting with the women’s contest on Saturday night, there’s plenty on the line for both the Cougars and Giants when they clash for the first time ever in Kalgoorlie.
The Cougars are all but locked into fifth position on the NBL1 West standings with an 11-7 record with two games to go, but one more game will lock that away once and for all.
Cockburn sits fifth at 11-7 to be three games out of fourth spot held by the Mandurah Magic but just two wins ahead of the Lakeside Lightning who have three games to play, and could still get to 12 wins.
Goldfields comes into the game on Saturday night in ninth position at 7-11 to be behind the eighth placed Perry Lakes Hawks who are 8-10. So for the Giants to still be a chance at reaching the playoffs in their first season, they need to win over the Cougars.
The teams met at Wally Hagan Stadium earlier in the season with the Cougars winning 88-76 back on April 24.
On that Sunday, Jewel Williams delivered 24 points and five rebounds for Cockburn with Jessie Edwards finishing with 13 points and 16 rebounds, Kat Tudor 20 points and 10 boards, and Haylee De Sousa 17 points.
Meanwhile for the Giants, Emma Klasztorny had 17 points and six rebounds, and Jemma Gatti 13 points and 13 boards, but both are currently out of the Goldfields team.
Danni McCray top-scored with 20 points and seven assists with Amanda Wayment adding 10 points and 15 rebounds.
That leads into the men’s contest on Saturday night where fourth position virtually goes on the line between the Giants and Cougars.
The winner of Saturday night’s game will likely finish the second last round in fourth position on the ladder with one last game to go next weekend – Cockburn at home to the Willetton Tigers and Goldfields on the road to the Perth Redbacks.
The Cougars come into the road trip on the back of winning three straight matches including two emphatic wins last weekend over the Warwick Senators and South West Slammers where they put up 229 points and nailed 38 three-pointers.
They will look to keep that momentum going against the Giants in Kalgoorlie on Saturday night with coach Andrew Cooper and his playing group fully aware of what’s at stake, and not shying away from it.
“It is a huge game and the players know that, and we’ve discussed it. We’ve sat down as a group and challenged ourselves to just continue winning games and then we just take everything out of the equation if we can keep winning,” Cooper said.
“That way we don’t have to rely on anyone else after last year we had to limp into the playoffs and rely on some other results, whereas this year we want to take that away from others. This weekend is a huge chance for us.
“We had a tough one against Goldfields at home earlier in the season and I know they are in the same boat as us now coming into this game.
“It should be a really good game and I heard Luke Brennan talk about being seasoned in these games and playing the best teams you can leading into playoffs, and that’s the way we’re thinking as well.
“It’s going to be a really good opportunity to go up against a really good team and then having to do the same next week against Willetton.”