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Round 17 Women’s Recap – Cougars secure piece of history

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The Cockburn Cougars women’s team confirmed their place in history on Friday night by beating the Kalamunda Eastern Suns to finish on the club’s best ever regular season record and claim a first regular season crown.

By beating the Eastern Suns 84-65 at Wally Hagan Stadium on Friday night, the Cougars finish the 2023 regular season with an 18-2 record which is the highest winning percentage any Cockburn team, women or men, has ever finished on dating back to the start of the competition in 1989.

Not only that, but it guaranteed that Cockburn claims the regular season championship for the 2023 women’s NBL1 West competition which is the first time the Cougars have ever finished in first place.

The Cougars came into the last game of the regular season just about sure of finishing in top spot, but they still needed to win to 100 per cent confirm it and came into the game missing centre Jessie Edwards against an Eastern Suns also potentially in a must-win situation.

Kalamunda needed to win the game to guarantee a playoff spot themselves or else rely on Lakeside losing in Mandurah at the same time, and the cause for the Suns weren’t helped with the absence of star import guard Natalie Chou.

Cockburn raced out to a 15-point lead to start the game. The Cougars were still leading 23-11 by quarter-time and while the Suns continued to fight valiantly the rest of the way, they could never really make any inroads to seriously threaten Cockburn.

The Cougars went on to lead by 15 points again in the second quarter before the advantage got out to 19 in the third term and 25 in the fourth before Cockburn settled on the 19-point victory.

Sarah Mortensen completed her brilliant first season with Cockburn that should have her a genuine MVP chance with 31 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals on 12/24 shooting from the field, 3/6 from downtown and 4/4 at the foul line.

Perth Lynx WNBL signing Steph Gorman delivered 19 points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds, Jewel Williams 15 points and six boards, and Patty Brossmann six points, nine rebounds and two assists.

The Cougars will now begin their championship assault with a home qualifying final this Saturday against the Rockingham Flames, and coach Tyrone Thwaites couldn’t be happier with their preparation.

“We got everything out of it and more. It was a perfect game for us heading into finals. They were desperate and came out incredibly physical, and when that’s happened this season we’ve lost two games,” Thwaites said.

“So for us to respond to that physicality and deal with it really well, and learn a bit out of it and grow heading into the first week of the finals is brilliant. There’s zero complaints from us and Tim’s crew had an absolute crack, and hopefully they will do the same to Warwick this week. It is the perfect preparation, though, for us heading into Rockingham.”

As for the historic nature of what the Cougars have achieved this regular season, Thwaites is proud of what his team has accomplished but ultimately, they still have unfinished business right now.

“It’s a really hard thing to wrap your head around at this point with three weeks to go. It’s something I said to the group after the game and let’s enjoy this for 48 hours because it really is an outstanding achievement,” he said.

“Then we need to pack it in a box, get on with the next three weeks and then open the box up again hopefully off the back of a championship. It’s a really nice thing to celebrate some success inside our women’s program broadly, and when I say success I mean material success.

“We haven’t had a ton of that inside our NBL1 or SBL program since 1989 and it’s a credit to all the former athletes who have paved the way to get us to where we are now, and the ones our young juniors can look up to on the wall and aspire to be.

“There are some of those still around our program now like Emma Pass who is our team mentor and Vanessa Cahill who is still giving back in and around the club. It doesn’t just mean something to us, it means something to them as well.”



Friday night wasn’t the only big game for the Cougars women this weekend with the WABL Championship Women’s team also playing the Grand Final on Sunday afternoon against the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre.

Like the NBL1 team, the Cougars WABL Championship team finished the regular season on top of the table in 2023 before beating the Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames on the way to lock in a Grand Final spot.

It was always going to be a challenge against an experienced Perry Lakes team featuring their NBL1 captain Annika Renkema who along with Rylee Kerr, Millie McCarthy, Summer Rule, Charlotte Graziano, Danika Pisconeri, Ellie Newman, Jenna Teasdale, Zoe Shanahan and Beige Harris combined for 641 games of NBL1 experience.

That was compared with the 305 games on the Cougars team of which 103 of them came from Kahlia Morgan, but it still turned out to be a terrific Grand Final contest.

Eventually Perry Lakes prevailed 71-66 with Pisconeri named the MVP but there was a lot to like in the fighting effort from the Cougars.

Ella Summers top-scored with 18 points including four three-pointers while Harriet Ford scored 12, Kinley Paterson 12, Latysha Derecourt 10, Zaya Black 10, and Jess Hickey four.

Coach Tyrone Thwaites couldn’t have been more proud of his team while acknowledging the experience edge of the Hawks was a bit too much in the finish.

“Having girls that had been in the system a bit longer and were probably a bit more emotionally mature to handle the big moments helped them, but it was a really good opportunity for our group,” Thwaites said.

“I think apart from Kahlia and Mackenzie, I don’t think anyone was aged over 19 for us and Zaya was the third most experienced at 19. Everyone else is 18 or younger so it holds us in good stead moving forward that’s for sure.

“It’s Championship level, so when I say they are experienced, they’re not that experienced because it is about developing athletes coming through, but in a sense they are. They had Annika Renkema and Danika Pisconeri along with Ellie Newman who has been in the system for a few years and they are incredibly well coached.

“Mark Matthiessen is a really smart coach and a future head coach at NBL1 level so full credit to them. They were terrific and we learned a lot out of it, and we were really proud of our group.

“The last two years has seen us make significant progress with our Champ Women’s program and nine of the 12 were aged 18 or under so it sets the stage well for us moving forward with that group, the next group coming through and going into our NBL1 group. While it was disappointing not to win, it was a nice result broadly for our program across the year.”

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