A stunning 22-3 run after a timely timeout late in the third quarter was the inspiration for the Cockburn Cougars women to make history winning a first ever championship clinching the NBL1 West Grand Final 68-61 against the Willetton Tigers.
It was a sold out crowd at Bendat Basketball Centre for the 2023 Grand Final and it turned out an outstanding contest, but the Cougars ended up beating the Tigers by seven with Perth Lynx WNBL signing Steph Gorman receiving the Grand Final MVP award.
A dominant first half from dual MVP Alex Sharp had the Tigers leading by nine at half-time and they were still up 10 late in the third quarter, but when Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites called a timeout, the game charged with Cockburn scoring the last eight points of the period.
The Cougars kept it going with another 14-3 run and that saw them go 22-3 after that timeout, and from there they were able to secure the win to make it a first ever women’s championship.
It caps a historic season for Cockburn who already claimed the regular season crown for the first time, finished with the club’s best ever record of 18-2 and now have a banner to show for it while also booking a place in next week’s National Finals at HBF Arena Joondalup.
NBL1 West Coach of the Year Thwaites is now a championship winner, and couldn’t hide his pride with the triumph from the Cougars.
“It’s hard to describe how it feels at this point, but I’m feeling fairly elated, emotional, proud and they’re probably the words that come to mind,” Thwaites said.
“I’m proud of the girls, proud of our community and proud of the women who played before us to help set us up to where we are today. It’s a pretty nice feeling it’s fair to say.”
On the same floor she’ll soon be calling home with the Perth Lynx, Steph Gorman did well to lock in on Alex Sharp in the second half and finished as Grand Final MVP with 19 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
Cougars point guard Jewel Williams was superb in her 131st game with 12 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and a massive late block.
Sarah Mortensen also had 13 points and eight rebounds for Cockburn, Patty Brossmann 10 points, eight boards, three steals and two assists, Jessie Edwards 10 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, and Amelia Corasaniti a crucial three points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist.
The Cougars were in their first ever women’s Grand Final and started well with the first four points courtesy of Patty Brossmann and Jessie Edwards before Alex Sharp got Willetton on the board at the foul line.
However, it was a hot start from Cockburn with Jewel Williams knocking down a three-pointer and then Edwards scoring down low again and it was a 9-2 lead just over three minutes into the contest.
Willetton worked back into it from there and it was the dual MVP Sharp leading the way with her effort and hustle just superior to anyone on the floor.
She would end the first quarter with eight points and two rebounds, and on the back of that the Tigers were leading 14-13 by the end of one.
Steph Gorman did hit a three to open the second quarter for Cockburn but five quick points for Willetton from Melisa Brcaninovic had her team up by those five points.
Sarah Mortensen then opened her account after missing her first seven shots for the Cougars and Williams hit a triple soon after, but the Tigers were starting to click and it was Sharp proving the difference.
She knocked down a three ball to start a 7-0 run, and by the time she hit a second three-pointer going into half-time, the Tigers were leading 37-28 and she had 16 points and four boards.
The Cougars got the start they were hoping for to the second half with a three-pointer from Gorman and then Mortensen got going for the first time with a pair of free-throws, and a three of her own.
Cockburn soon got back to within five, but a couple of costly turnovers led to a finish in transition for Willetton to Kelley and then a three-point play to Grace Foster to make it a 10-point game again.
Out of a timeout two minutes from three quarter-time, Cockburn got an important three from 16-year-old excitement machine Amelia Corasaniti. Mortensen then converted a three-point play and suddenly it was a four-point ball game.
Williams then scored on the buzzer in typical casual yet effective style and the Cougars had scored eight points after that Tyrone Thwaites timeout to cut the Willetton lead to 48-46 with one to play.
Brcaninovic and Gorman traded three balls for their teams early in the fourth quarter before another tough driving layup from Williams had the Cougars up two with 6:48 on the clock.
Mortensen then scored out of a timeout to extend Cockburn’s lead before a huge block from Williams on a driving Amy Jacobs led to a bucket from Edwards, and suddenly the Cougars were up six on a 19-3 run since that timeout late in the third.
Gorman stretched that to a 22-3 run when she landed her fourth three of the game and from there the Cougars were able to close it out. It was one more masterful coaching move from Thwaites when he subbed on Corasaniti to guard the ball handler.
She forced the turnover on that very same possession and from there Cockburn closed it out to win by seven and secure a first ever women’s championship.