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Round 3 NBL1 West Recap – Time to take stock for Cougars men after Buccs loss

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It’s time for reflection for the Cockburn Cougars men after a disappointing showing at home to the Geraldton Buccaneers on Sunday with coach Andrew Cooper looking for his leaders to make a stand.

After two losses at home to start the season against strong teams in Willetton and Rockingham, the Cougars hit the road on Friday night to play the also winless Lakeside Lightning at Lakeside Recreation Centre.

For much of the night the Cougars appeared on track to win their first game of the season before the Lightning pulled away to win 99-91 with Cockburn then needing to back up on Sunday against the Geraldton Buccaneers at Wally Hagan Stadium.

What resulted was the total opposite of what coach Cooper was hoping his team would produce ending up 45 points down during the fourth quarter with the Buccs handing them the 124-87 spanking on their home floor.

The loss leaves the Cougars at 0-4 to start the new season including the two horror losses at Wally Hagan Stadium to Willetton and Geraldton ahead of heading to Rockingham to take on the rampaging reigning champion Flames this Friday night.

Looking back on Friday night and with just under five minutes to play, the Cougars were in a strong position to get their first win of the season leading 89-84.

However Lakeside scored 15 points to seven to close the game and claim the seven-point win despite Taj Benning finishing with 25 points, Gavin Field 15 points and seven rebounds, Kieran Berry 15 points and two steals, and Josh Hunt 14 points.

Despite the disappointment in losing, there were positives that coach Cooper saw in the performance.

“I was happy with our first three and-a-half quarters of basketball. I think we were in a pretty comfortable position at both ends of the floor,” Cooper said.

“I thought defensively we were good and offensively, we were executing what we wanted but then in the last sort of five minutes of the last quarter, it all changed.

“Our more senior guys or starters dropped the ball a bit and sort of went a little bit rogue on offence, and couldn’t get any stops on defence. Unfortunately that undid a lot of the hard work that our role players off the bench had done as well. It was a disappointing last five minutes that’s for sure.”

There was no indication of what was to come on Sunday from the Cougars up against a Buccs team who were also looking to bounce back from losing to Joondalup the night before and to the Redbacks the previous Saturday in Karratha.

Right from the outset it was a dominant performance in every aspect from the Buccaneers as they went on to lead by 10 points at quarter-time, 26 at half-time and then to be up by as much as 45 in the fourth quarter before settling with the 37-point win.

“In the first quarter we gave up 30 points and it just kept rolling from there,” Cooper said.

“I’ve reflected definitely on a lot of things since that game and I’ve got to sit down with the coaches and we’re going to have some conversations about how we can try to fix this from our end.

“But to be honest and I hate to pass the blame too much, but I think a lot of it has to fall back on the players and where they stand, and what they want to represent as a club and team. They have to work out how they want to move forward with this as far as what they put out on the court.”

It wasn’t really until the fourth quarter when Cooper went to his bench players that he saw the type of fight he was hoping to see from the Cougars.

He hopes that the Cockburn players do some soul searching as a playing unit now ahead of facing Rockingham on the road on Friday.

“After speaking to the players briefly during the game, it just looked like they quit at one point and that’s why a lot of our bigger name players didn’t play down the stretch,” Cooper said.

“I thought in the last quarter although the game was well and truly done, our role players came out and did what they needed to do, and didn’t quit and the young guys gave it a crack.

“That’s really all we ask and again unfortunately like I said after the Willetton game, I don’t want to take anything away from Geraldton because Dayle did a great job, and they’re a very good team there’s no doubt about it.

“Malik Meunier has gone to the next level I think and if he’s not knocking on the door as an NBL DP or something like that I’d be very surprised because he was really good.

“But our guys like Josh, Seva, Courtney, Taj and Gav have got to sort of sit back and ask if they were good enough and if they gave everything because that’s all I ask. If the players can sit back and say they did, then we can say that we lost to a better team. But I don’t know if we are going along the right path in that area.”

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