The Cockburn Cougars women continued their blistering start to the NBL1 West season with recruits Sarah Mortensen and Steph Gorman equally impressive in Friday night’s 36-point win against the Lakeside Lightning.
On the back of home wins against the Willetton Tigers and Rockingham Flames to open the season by a combined 62 points, the Cougars hit the road for the first time on Friday night and delivered the 99-63 victory over the Lightning at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
It did take until the second half for the Cougars to break the game open having led by just a point at quarter-time and then being up 48-37 going into the half-time break.
However, Cockburn outscored Lakeside 51 points to 26 in the second half on the way to the 36-point win on the back of limiting the Lightning to shooting just 30.8 per cent from the field and into 23 turnovers while the Cougars won the rebound count 62 to 42 to end up taking 26 extra field goals.
Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites was pleased overall with the performance but realises the Lightning would have been a different proposition had captain Caitie Jones played while also acknowledging Cockburn is well short of full strength now too.
“It was a good performance but I’m that grumpy coach at the moment who is never truly satisfied and I think it took us probably a half to start playing how we want to win basketball games,” Thwaites said.
“That’s the really important part for me right now is that we want to win our way. We don’t want to beat a team because they weren’t good enough or missing talent, we want to beat a team because we were great.
“Without the guard rotation this week it made it pretty hard and Jewel couldn’t train all week, but it was nice to get the ball through Steph and KP’s hands at the point, so we’ll take a 36-point win into a bye and get some sore bodies under control.
“We look forward to playing them again in two weeks.”
There was plenty to like in the performance from the Cougars with Jessie Edwards finishing with 26 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists, Jewel Williams 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds while Kirsty Whitfield had five rebounds and five assists, Harriet Ford three points and five boards, and Ella Summers two points and seven rebounds.
However, the standouts were 2023 arrivals Steph Gorman (23 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five steals) and Sarah Mortensen (34 points, 12 boards, three assists, three steals).
While Thwaites awarded Gorman his Player of the Game for her all-round performance, he’s delighted with the way Danish import Mortensen is settling in and can’t wait to see her three-point shot start to fall too.
“The first thing is we’re telling her (Mortensen) to keep shooting the ball because she’s a shooter, she’s just had a very unfortunate start with the three ball,” he said.
“That’s a good thing in some respects because teams are going to sleep on her and what they don’t realise is she’s an exceptional shooter of the ball.
“She was outstanding on Friday night along with Steph, and the irony is I gave our Player of the Week to Steph and there’s every chance Sarah goes close to winning it for the league.
“It was really a flip of the coin and both were impactful in different ways, and Sarah’s capacity to just go and rebound the ball like crazy is just phenomenal.
“She can also guard multiple spots, she can guard one through four so we’re very lucky to have her and she’s only just starting to hit her straps. In about a month’s time Sarah is going to be a scary proposition for the league.”
The start to the season couldn’t have gone better for the Cougars with the three thumping wins ahead of the Round 4 bye and then playing host to the Lightning again in Round 5, but Thwaites is anything but content or getting ahead of himself.
“It’s a bit of a weird feeling because we’ve been in this situation before and we’ve faded a little bit as the year’s gone on,” Thwaites said.
“We have learnt from that as a coaching staff and are making adjustments a lot faster, and trying to foreshadow how teams will try to stop us from scoring, given how many weapons we have, and how easily we tend to score.
“We are getting on top of those things much earlier than we have in the past, and with Patty still to come, it gives you a level of excitement but we are not content in any way.
“We are sitting down and constantly looking at how to make sure everything we do is about making us better as a group, both the girls themselves, and us as a coaching staff.
“You won’t catch a whisker of over-confidence in this camp.”