It’s a massive Saturday night ahead to open the NBL1 West Finals for 2022 with both the Cockburn Cougars teams involved with the women at home in an elimination final and the men on the road in a qualifying final.
After both Cougars teams have put together standout regular seasons in the 2022 NBL1 West competition to finish up placed fifth and fourth respectively, the finals gets underway this weekend.
The Cougars women enter the finals from fifth position meaning there are no second chances and they play host to the Perry Lakes Hawks at Wally Hagan Stadium from 5pm.
That leads into the men’s qualifying final from Geraldton with the Cougars taking on the Buccaneers from 7pm.
Starting with the women’s elimination final, the seasons of both the Cougars and Hawks go on the line at Wally Hagan Stadium between two teams that have built up a nice rivalry in recent years.
Cockburn’s women finished the regular season in fifth position in the standings with a 13-7 record and come into the finals on a three-game winning streak to have built some good momentum to lock in that fifth spot, and home court advantage.
Perry Lakes, meanwhile, just managed to scrape into the finals from eighth position with a 9-11 record just ahead of the Goldfields Giants, but that doesn’t make them a dangerous opponent for the Cougars.
The two teams only played once during the regular season and that was also Wally Hagan Stadium back on July 8. In that encounter, the Cougars prevailed in a heartstopper 77-75.
That game saw Kat Tudor deliver 24 points and seven rebounds for Cockburn while Alina Hartmann added 13 points and 11 rebounds, Jewel Williams 13 points and seven assists.
Meanwhile, for Perry Lakes in that game Sara Loomis was the star with 24 points while Emma Clarke added 14 points and nine rebounds, Mia Satie 12 points, 11 boards and six assists, and Ellie Newman 10 points and five rebounds.
The Cougars finished the season as the third highest scoring team in the competition at 89.3 points a game. The Hawks are ranked just eighth for points scored at 78.7.
Perry Lakes is ranked fifth defensively after giving up 75.1 points a game while Cockburn is ranked eighth conceding 78.8 points.
A win for the Cougars on Saturday night over the Hawks and they will advance to the semi finals next weekend to take on the loser of this weekend’s qualifying final between the Warwick Senators and Willetton Tigers.
Then in the men’s match up on Saturday night, the Cougars head to Active West Stadium to take on the Geraldton Buccaneers with a place in the preliminary final next weekend going on the line.
Cockburn confirmed their finals double chance with an outstanding finish to the regular season winning five consecutive matches to end up on a 15-7 record.
The challenge now to open the finals for the Cougars is taking on the regular season champion Buccaneers to locked away top spot with a 19-3 record.
The two teams played out two remarkable contests during the regular season as well setting the stage for a tantalising playoff battle on Saturday night.
The first meeting was in Geraldton on April 30 and despite no Gavin Field, the Cougars were on top most of the evening and on track to hand the Buccs their first loss of the 2022 season.
While in the end the Buccaneers won 81-70 there was a lot to like in the Cougars performance with 15 points from Josh Hunt, 14 points and 12 rebounds from Carter Skaggs, 11 points, eight boards and eight assists from Seva Chan, and nine points and 11 rebounds from Paschal Chukwu.
The return encounter took place at Wally Hagan Stadium on June 12 and on a spectacularly fluctuating game where the Cougars went up, the Buccs fought back and then Cockburn prevailed 98-94.
That was Geraldton’s first of three losses for the season with Skaggs on fire early on his way to an eventual 37-point outburst for the Cougars.
There’s plenty of feeling between the two teams following those two previous match ups and both teams deserve to be entering this finals series feeling like they are genuine championship prospects setting the stage for a tantalising match up.
Heading to Geraldton shouldn’t be something that holds any fears for the Cougars either after they did win at Active West Stadium on the way to the championship in 2016 in the semi finals as well.