The Cockburn Cougars shook off a slow start to dominate the Goldfields Giants over the second and third quarters to set up the 94-76 victory in Kalgoorlie to remain undefeated this NBL1 West season.
The Cougars arrived in Kalgoorlie putting their perfect record this season on the line on the back of beating the Joondalup Wolves for a second time this season last Saturday night.
On the same evening, Australian Opals bronze medal winner Darcee Garbin inspired the Giants to a win over the Perry Lakes Hawks and they were back home at Niels Hansen Basketball Stadium this Saturday.
Even though Cockburn did start well enough to lead 13-7 after the first five minutes, Goldfields then did well to hit back to outscore the Cougars 16 points to eight the rest of the quarter.
That saw the Giants lead 23-21 by quarter-time but the Cougars took charge in the second quarter with them doing a terrific job of making life difficult for Darcee Garbin with the defensive effort led by Steph Gorman once again.
The Cougars would score 11 straight points to grab the lead and outscore the Giants 27 points to 18 in the second quarter to go into the half-time break on top 48-41.
Cockburn then blew the game wide open with 27 points to 11 in the third quarter with the lead getting out to as much as 25 points before they would go on to win by 18 in the finish.
Jewel Williams put up 24 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Cougars while draining 5/9 from three-point territory with Jessie Edwards adding 24 points, 12 boards, four assists and two steals.
Sarah Mortensen had another 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists with 16-year-old Amelia Corasaniti scoring nine points in her 15 minutes.
While it was another strong win for the Cougars with lots to like, the slightly slow start has given coach Tyrone Thwaites plenty to think about this week.
“I’m the grumpy old man who is never fully satisfied, but it was definitely pleasing,” Thwaites said.
“Our response after being challenged was poitive, I think it’s the first time we’ve been down eight or nine in a game. Credit to Goldfields, they came out and had a real crack at us. They couldn’t miss a thing in the first quarter but our response was really nice.
“However at my end, it’s more about addressing a slow start and we’ve had a couple of those recently, and at some point someone is going to get us if we don’t address it. So there’s been a lot of conversations around that this week heading into a big double-header.”
It was a daunting task for the Cougars to take on Australian Opal Darcee Garbin as well on Saturday night with her fresh off 34 points, 14 rebounds and six assists the previous week against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
In the end, it was Steph Gorman who took on that challenge brilliantly with some support inside from Jessie Edwards.
“It was a big team effort and Jessie did a great job of helping off the right people to really give Steph some support in the post,” Thwaites said.
“But generally from the perimeter where Darcee can be very effective in a catch and shoot position, Steph did a great job and we expect nothing less from her. She’s done that all year long and obviously now as a result is rewarded with a Perth Lynx contract.”
Gorman has now been rewarded for her outstanding first season in the NBL1 West at the Cougars where she’s confirmed herself as the league’s standout defender, and a strong offensive threat with a contract in the WNBL at the Perth Lynx.
Thwaites couldn’t be happier for her.
“I don’t want to speak for Steph because it’s a great story for her, but what I do know is this is someone who has a desire to play at a professional level,” Thwaites said.
“She might have lost a little bit of the love of the game last year which has been reinvigorated this year, and that’s a credit to her for doing the work and finding how to bring her strengths to life.
“She’s really worked hard at her strengths, particularly defensively, and they’ve been able to shine this year.
“She’s done some big jobs against some big athletes which obviously Ryan Petrik has recognised and she’s being well rewarded for a lot of time and effort that has gone in to getting her to this stage.”
The women’s win on Saturday was the perfect start to the night in Kalgoorlie that ended with the Cougars men also scoring a memorable win despite being significantly shorthanded to beat the Giants.
It sure made for a memorable night all round and showed the culture that exists between both Cougars teams.
“I was really happy for the boys. They’ve just been riddled with bad luck across this year and for them to only have nine athletes, and for Kaidon Sander to come out on debut and play 11 minutes, to do the job they did was pretty special,” Thwaites said.
“It felt great and we were lucky the girls got to sit directly behind the bench in the corporate boxes, and anyone that saw that would have felt the vibe between the boys’ bench and girls behind.
“It was just a nice collective spirit between both programs, and I was really pleased for Coops and the guys. That’s a tough place to win and under the circumstances, it was incredible.
“It’s become a bit of a tradition now when both teams win to sing the song together, it’s a credit to both programs and a really nice way to finish the weekend.”