Memorable First Nations Round at home for Cougars

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It was a night to celebrate at Wally Hagan Stadium on Friday with two wins for the Cockburn Cougars against the Perry Lakes Hawks in NBL1 West First Nations Round to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

The Cougars played host to the Hawks in two massive Round 13 NBL1 West match ups on Friday night in what was First Nations Round and the two Cockburn teams looked resplendent in their Aboriginal themed uniforms designed by the legendary Dr Richard Walley.

In the end, there were two thrillers to commemorate the occasion against Perry Lakes with the Cockburn women coming from behind with a big finish to win 77-75 before the men also claimed the thrilling 94-91 win against the defending champions.

It was a significant night all-round on a number of fronts and to come away with the two wins was the icing on the cake.

“It was a big night of basketball across the state and country for First Nations Round and acknowledging the contributions of our First Nations people to not only our club, but the whole nation,” said Cougars women’s coach and chief executive Tyrone Thwaites.

“There was also a number of close games on Friday night and all our NBL1 West games were close and both games at Wally Hagan certainly were. The beauty of our uniforms were that they acknowledged our First Nations history but also the history of our NBL1/SBL/District program.

“There’s 10 people represented on our uniforms, five men and five women, all who played their part in our history. It certainly was nice to culminate with a couple of wins but it was a nice all-round night of celebration.”

Starting with the women’s clash on Friday night, Perry Lakes opened the game on fire to lead 8-2 early on but the Cougars hit back with their own 7-0 run to cut the Hawks lead to 15-13 by the end of one.

Cockburn built some momentum to start the second quarter on the back of three-pointers to Alina Hartmann, Jewel Williams and Kat Tudor to be up 23-15. Haylee De Sousa then hit from downtown too and the Cougars were up 26-15.

However, Perry Lakes responded in remarkable fashion by scoring 17 straight points spearheaded by Emma Clarke and Sara Loomis to see them work their way on top and lead 35-31 by the main break.

Five quick points to Loomis to start the second half saw Perry Lakes go up nine with that advantage growing to 13 later in the third quarter thanks to a three-point make from Mia Satie.

The Hawks still led by eight at three quarter-time but a four-point play to Tudor breathed life back into the Cougars to open the fourth quarter.

A three-point play from Williams then put Cockburn on top before Morgan Ballantyne responded to restore the narrow Perry Lakes advantage.

The lead continued to seesaw until another three-point bomb for Cockburn from Tudor before she also knocked down two free-throws to put the home team up four with five minutes to play.

There was still plenty more to play out with the Hawks back on top after an and-one from Ballantyne before they went up three with a bucket to Malia Tharpe. However, a triple to Hartmann put Cockburn back up one and soon after Satie connected from deep again to level scores.

In the end, it was a huge bucket late from Tudor after she drove to the rack that broke the deadlock and won the game for the Cougars 77-75.

As well as coming up huge late, Kat Tudor had a strong night overall for Cockburn with 24 points and seven rebounds while hitting 5/13 from three-point land and 7/9 at the foul line.

Alina Hartmann added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars, Jewel Williams 13 points and seven assists, Ella Summers nine points and eight rebounds, and Haylee De Sousa nine points, three boards and three assists.

Given what was at stake in the game and then when they fell down during the first half without their inside presence Jessie Edwards, Thwaites was rightfully concerned but was delighted by the end of the contest.

“I was really happy afterwards. It was a stressful game but those are the ones you like to be a part of,” Thwaites said.

“We lost Jessie late on Thursday night so she had trained with us all week which actually makes it more difficult to lose someone that late because you’ve prepared with them in your line-up rather than doing the work without them in the lead up.

“We had to ask for the next girl to step up and we lost 18.5 points and nearly 13 rebounds so collectively for the group to have that gritty, hardnosed win that we did after being down 13 at one point on Friday was really impressive.”

The fact that the Cougars were able to fight back from the double-digit deficit and to still win the rebound battle despite the absence of Edwards meant there was a lot for Thwaites to be pleased with afterwards.

“That’s a real credit to the girls. We asked for those girls that might be averaging three, four or five rebounds a game that it needed to become five, six or seven on Friday night and they did that,” Thwaites said.

“We were fortunate in some respects that we weren’t playing a big team who had a true centre. Sara Loomis isn’t that so that certainly worked in our favour even though Sara had a big night for them, but controlling the glass was a big part of not only Friday night and it will be for the remaining part of the season.

“Over the past month or so we’ve really started doing that and it’s an important piece moving forward.”

Then in the men’s contest on Friday night, Perry Lakes put together eight straight points to lead by 11, and still be up by seven at quarter-time.

However, Carter Skaggs then took over for Cockburn in remarkable fashion in the second quarter and by half-time, he had knocked down nine three-pointers and had 29 points which saw the Cougars pile on 44 points to 17 in the second term to lead 65-45 at half-time.

Perry Lakes aren’t the reigning champions for nothing, though, and they shook off that rough second quarter to fire back into the contest in the third period with 29 points to 17.

While Cockburn maintained a double-figure advantage early in the fourth term, new Perry Lakes recruit Jack Isenbarger sparked his new team on his third appearance with five quick points.

All of a sudden when Ben Purser drained a three with two minutes to go, the Hawks were back within five and then Ryan Smith hit a triple of his own with a minute to go to make it a three-point game.

However, that would be the last score of the contest and Cockburn clung on to the 94-91 victory to improve to 9-6 on the season with the Hawks slipping to 8-7.

On the back of the remarkable performance by Carter Skaggs, Cockburn shot 20/35 at 57.1 per cent from three-point range while they also outrebounded Perry Lakes 39 to 28 for the night.

Skaggs ended the night with 38 points and nine rebounds while shooting a phenomenal 13/15 overall and 12/14 from three-point territory. However, Perry Lakes did well to limit his touches and opportunities in the second half.

Paschal Chukwu added 12 points and seven rebounds for Cockburn, Gavin Field seven points, seven rebounds and three assists, Seva Chan seven points and six assists, and Luke Phillips nine points and three boards.