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Round 1 Cougars Wrap – Double wins to open season

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Both Cockburn Cougars teams were impressive despite missing some key players to open the NBL1 West season for 2024 with victories against the Mandurah Magic at Wally Hagan Stadium.

The NBL1 West season got underway on Thursday night leading into the Easter long weekend with the Cougars hosting the Magic at Wally Hagan Stadium.

First up was the beginning of the championship defence for the Cougars women and they had to work hard as always against the Magic, but ended up prevailing 83-73 with Jewel Williams picking up right where she left off in last year’s Grand Final.

Then following the championship banner ceremony for the women, the Cougars men hit the floor for the first time under new coach Mark Clayden, and came away with the 103-91 victory against the Magic.


The championship defence of the Cockburn Cougars got off to a winning start thanks to a typically hard fought 83-73 victory against the Mandurah Magic on Thursday night.

The Cougars women made history in 2023 by winning a first ever championship and now as a result the firsts continue in 2024 as they attempt to defend that title for the first time.

Thursday night at a sold out Wally Hagan Stadium was a memorable occasion with the raising of that championship banner as well, but first was the job at hand in a preliminary final rematch against the Magic.

Cockburn was without Perth Lynx WNBL pair Steph Gorman and Alex Ciabattoni along with new imports Daniel Raber and Maria Blazejewski while it was a Mandurah team minus new additions Nicole Fransson, McKenna Dale and Sam Roscoe.

That only added to the intrigue of the contest and the back court battle between Jewel Williams and Casey Mihovilovich was fascinating in its own right, but in the end it was the Cougars who got the job done.

It was a tight affair most of the way but down the stretch the Cougars pulled away with 24 points to 16 in the fourth quarter helped with Mihovilovich fouling out for Mandurah for Cockburn to go on to score the 10-point triumph.

Jewel Williams came up huge in last year’s championship triumph for the Cougars and started this season in standout fashion with 31 points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Jessie Edwards also delivered 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks with Jaya Scafidi adding 13 points, six boards and four assists, and Amelia Corasaniti 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Emerging big Harriet Ford got the start for Cockburn and had seven points and seven rebounds while another new signing Regan Turnour-McCarty had three points, six rebounds and five assists, and Jess Hickey two points and a rebound.

Following the win, Williams was happy that the Cougars were able to come away with the win with the key players still to come in while enjoyed the chance to have another battle with the league’s games record holder, Casey Mihovilovich.

“I thought our game was a really good first hit out for us, missing a lot of experience out on the floor in comparison to a veteran Mandurah team I was really proud of the girls and the perseverance to get the win,” Williams said.

“Milo is amazing and such an inspiration I think to not only young basketball players but young girls as well, she is a superwoman and is so community centred which I think is so important.

“I love the opportunity to play against someone as smart and influential in WA basketball as Milo, and I’ve still got a way to go yet.”


The new-look Cockburn Cougars men got off to an impressive start on Thursday night with the 103-91 win against a Mandurah Magic team with a familiar foe who put up 30 points.

The Cougars have a new coach with Mark Clayden taking over the helm in 2024 and while there are plenty of familiar faces back for the season including Gavin Field coming into what he’s announced is his final season, there’s a new look to the Cockburn team too.

While there is still new import centre Demetris Morant and veteran guard Seva Chan to come into the team from Thursday night, there was a lot to like from both the returning players and inclusions over summer like Rhys Vague, Hunter Clarke and Kyle Armour.

The Cougars made a flying start to the contest on their home floor after the Magic had a 9-8 advantage after the opening four minutes.

Armour scored to put Cockburn in front as they went on to outscore Mandurah 26 points to 15 for the rest of the opening quarter to end up leading 34-24 by quarter-time on the back of a three-pointer from Vague just before the buzzer.

The Cougars lead got out to as much as 14 points in the second quarter as well with the home team remaining in control leading 57-46 going into the half-time break.

Cockburn was able to maintain a double-digit lead pretty much the whole second half as well with the lead growing to a high of 15 points in the final quarter before settling at the final margin of 12 in favour of the Cougars.

There was a lot to like in the performance from the Cougars even if they did only shoot 4/19 from three-point range which leaves plenty of room for improvement. Even the 17/27 free-throw shooting can be tidied up despite the double-figure win.

Josh Hunt ended up topping the scoring on the night for the Cougars with the work he’s put in over the off-season clearly on show in the season-opener. He finished with 25 points and nine rebounds including going 9/12 at the foul line.

Rhys Vague is back with the Cougars following his NBL season at the South East Melbourne Phoenix and put up 20 points, nine boards, two assists and two steals as well while Gavin Field added 17 points, three boards and three steals.

There were plenty more contributors for Cockburn with Nathan Pond another who has had a terrific pre-season and had 10 points and five rebounds despite battling foul trouble.

Kyle Armour played the 294th game of his career in the league but first with Cockburn and had eight points, five rebounds and five assists with Matt Clifford contributing seven points and four boards.

Riley Bensemann added five points, William Yarran four points, three rebounds and two assists, Charlie Dimmock four points and four boards, and Hunter Clarke three points, four rebounds and three assists.

Former Cockburn championship winner Julian Pesava delivered 30 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Mandurah with Jarrod Molnar adding 22 points and Michael Durr 18 to go with 11 rebounds.

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