It was a mixed weekend on the road for the Cockburn Cougars as the injuries continued to rack up starting with a win against the Mandurah Magic on Friday before a tough loss to the Perry Lakes Hawks 24 hours later.
The challenging road weekend double for the Cougars men began on Friday at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
Cockburn produced a commanding performance against the bottom placed Magic and came away with the 96-84 victory on the back of having led by as much as 21 points throughout the evening.
Taking on the fresh and second placed Perry Lakes at Bendat Basketball Centre was always going to then be a significant test on Saturday, and that’s how it turned out with the Cougars losing Keegan Phillips to an ankle injury in the eventual 84-54 victory.
That leaves the Cougars sitting on a 7-10 record by the end of Round 13 with playoffs still within reach over the last five games and four weeks.
Going back to Friday night, the Cougars started well to lead by as much as 12 in the opening term and be still up 26-19 by the end of one.
Cockburn would never trail the entire night leading by as much as 16 in the second stanza, 21 in the third and then to go on to score the 12-point win despite Mandurah getting 40 points from Dequan Abrom.
Courtney Alexander II had another strong performance in the win for Cockburn with 24 points, 10 rebounds and two steals on 10/15 shooting.
Fellow import Taj Benning added 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals while Keegan Phillips contributed 17 points and seven boards, Kieran Berry 10 points and two boards, and Gavin Field seven points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Cougars coach Andrew Cooper was happy to come away with the important win.
“I knew Utley would throw something out there considering they were missing two key players but we sort of knew that Abrom is tough to stop at the best of times,” Cooper said.
“So we focused a bit more on the rest of their playing group and we had a plan for Ray Turner. We just thought if we could limit Abrom the best we can and deal with the others then we should be OK. All in all it wasn’t a pretty game, it was a grind, but the win was important at the end for us.”
Saturday night against the championship contending, experienced and stacked Hawks team didn’t go to plan, though, even though Cooper was happy enough to still be in touch at half-time despite a rough shooting game.
“I’ve watched the game back and we lacked energy there’s no doubt about it,” Cooper said.
“Both teams played a lot of zone which took a lot of the pop out of the game, but at half-time when we went into the changeroom we hadn’t scored a lot but had missed a lot.
“We had a lot of good looks and a lot of opportunities. We missed layups and were shooting just over 20 per cent from the field.
“We had a very bad shooting night which didn’t help but if we take a few missed free-throws and add them to scoreboard and a few threes, and we’re probably right there and about at half-time in a low scoring game.”
Things spiralled in the second half with the Hawks ending up winning by 30 points with the Cougars losing Keegan Phillips to an ankle injury as he now joins Chan and brother Luke on the injured list.
However, Cooper did dig deep into the bench to end up learning a lot more out of Alex Mackinlay who had nine points and three rebounds in 15 minutes along with Charlie Dimmock who had four points and eight boards in 24 and-a-half minutes.
“That was the worst we’ve played offensively all year and we still sort of hung around, the first few minutes of the third quarter we made some good defensive plays but just couldn’t put points on the board,” Cooper said.
“And then, when we lost Keegan things went downhill pretty quickly after that. It got to a point where I just said this game is probably out of reach and we probably won’t get it back, and I can’t afford any more injuries.
“So I pretty much shut everyone down and we played our bench for an extended amount of time, which did get them some minutes to see what they could give us moving forward.
“That certainly wasn’t the plan going in but when your rotation comes down to having to play those guys because of injuries, it’s not worth risking any more when you’re down 25. I just didn’t feel we had any momentum to come back.”