The Beeliar Boodjar Cougars learned plenty from a second loss of the season to the Willetton Tigers on Saturday in NBL1 West First Nations Round and while the response was good on Sunday, it was about more than just the win for coach Tyrone Thwaites.
The Cougars arrived at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Saturday night with a chance to wrap up a first ever regular season championship, and things were going well over the opening 11 minutes of the game.
Sarah Mortensen had 18 points to her name already and Beeliar Boodjar were leading 31-25. However, she picked up her third foul and sat most of the rest of the half, and the game underwent a dramatic transformation.
In the end, Willetton won the game 98-73 and kept the battle for top spot a fascinating one with the Cougars needing to rebound on Sunday when hosting the Goldfields Giants.
It was just Beeliar Boodjar’s second loss of the season with Sarah Mortensen still top scoring with 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists but 18 of those points were in the game’s first 11 minutes.
Steph Gorman also had 11 points and four rebounds, Jessie Edwards 10 points, five boards, three assists and three blocks, and Jewel Williams seven points, five assists and four rebounds.
Coach Thwaites gave credit to the Tigers for the way they performed but was pleased with the attitude in the response from his group when discussing it afterwards before Sunday’s game.
“We’ve got to get better when Sarah’s not on the floor, that’s the reality, however if you take the best offensive athlete you have off any team on a given night, it’s going to impact you,” Thwaites said.
“We know that there’s going to be big games where she might be in foul trouble so we have to get better at both ends of the floor when she’s not out there. And credit to Willetton, there was a lot on the line for them possibly for a top two finish and they played exactly like they were out to get that top two finish. We didn’t.
“I think you learn a lot from each other after the event. I think the response from our group and when I say that, I don’t mean how we played the next day when that was always going to be a challenge 12 hours later.
“I mean more in the conversation and the dialogue that takes place, and you start to learn how much this means or doesn’t mean to a group.
“I think the communication and conversations that have taken place since the game have been very, very self-reflective, very accountable and very positive as well. I think it will be a good thing for our group and we’ll take a lot away from it.”
The Cougars didn’t have much time to think about the loss, though, backing up for an 11am tip-off on Sunday against the Giants at Wally Hagan Stadium.
Beelier Boodjar started strongly in response to the previous night to open up a 13-point lead by quarter-time on the back of scoring 11 consecutive points.
The Cougars remained in control of the contest the rest of the way to lead by as much as 23 points in the second term, 27 in the third and 31 in the fourth on the way to the eventual 30-point victory.
The win keeps Beeliar Boodjar in top spot in the NBL1 West with a 16-2 record.
Mortensen and Edwards dominated for the Cougars. Mortensen put up 29 points, nine rebounds and two steals with Edwards adding 26 points, 18 boards and two assists.
Williams also had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for Beeliar Boodjar, Gorman seven points, nine rebounds and six assists, and captain Kirsty Whitfield six points, four boards and four assists.
Thwaites likes the way the group responded and the punch that Amelia Corasaniti provided five points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals in 18 minutes, and Patty Brossmann got an important 17 minutes into her.
“I did like how we played and it was always going to be a bit messy. You kind of chase perfection a little bit after losing the night before so it didn’t quite feel the same way it did against Perry Lakes the day after losing against Mandurah,” Thwaites said.
“But there was a lot to like out there. We’ve got some very sore bodies at the moment and for Amelia to come out and be as good as she was, it was a lot of fun to watch.
“Jessie started to really make some adjustments from the night before and put that into place. And just to start to trying to integrate and get that balance right with Patty on the floor as well which we haven’t been able to do with her coming in and out.
“So we got a few reps under our belt with that and there was plenty to like out of it, and our championship women girls won their quarter-final as well so it was ultimately a nice end to the weekend.”