Coach Tyrone Thwaites labelled it his team’s best defensive performance of the NBL1 West season after the Cockburn Cougars stayed undefeated with Saturday night’s home win against the Lakeside Lightning.
The Cougars women were playing their first game in two weeks after the bye following the three straight wins against Willetton, Rockingham and Lakeside, but the break did nothing to halt their momentum.
Cockburn played host to the Lighting on Saturday night at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars scoring the 83-56 victory to improve to a perfect 4-0 on the season after the opening five rounds.
There was plenty to like once more in the performance from the Cougars with Danish import Sarah Mortensen delivering another 27 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two assists while knocking down 4/9 from three-point territory.
Steph Gorman was outstanding defensively once more on top of 13 points and five rebounds with Jewel Williams contributing 17 points, four boards and three assists, Jessie Edwards 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Kinley Patterson seven points, four assists, three boards and two steals.
Coach Thwaites is happy with what his team is showing early in the season, but is anything but content.
“I am still finding things for us that we can improve on mainly because we are setting high expectations for ourselves as a group,” Thwaites said.
“We want to talk about continuous improvement on a week to week basis so I guess my job is to find where those areas are both for the coaching staff and players to make sure we have a continuous improvement mindset no matter what we’re doing. Obviously from a results point of view, it reflects a pretty pleasing start to the year.”
It was another tremendous defensive showing from a Cougars team now conceding just 60.5 points a game so far this season, and not having given up more than the 68 against Rockingham in Round 2.
It was a standout defensive performance against Lakeside with the Cougars restricting the Lightning to the 56 points on 33.3 per cent goal shooting as well as 5/19 shooting from three-point range, and forcing them into 22 turnovers.
Cockburn also won the rebound battle 53 to 43, and afterwards Thwaites felt it was their best performance at the defensive end so far this season.
“Our defensive improvement has been very pleasing. Saturday was probably our best defensive performance all round that we’ve put in this year as well,” Thwaites said.
“We’re probably not quite firing on all cylinders offensively, which is probably the scary part for us because we know how much growth we have left.
“But I think we got Lakeside five, six or seven times on shot clock violations and it was just the way that we comprehensively as a team dealt with Caitie Jones defensively.
“I mean the star of that was Steph and she helped hold her to five or six points to three quarter-time, which was obviously outstanding, but it was a collective team effort the way we dealt with her.
“Without a doubt the defensive improvement has been phenomenal for us and to have our best performance on Saturday night was good timing as we build towards Joondalup this week.”
Thwaites admits there is always a degree of trepidation when you have momentum about having a week off, but he always had faith this Cougars group would handle it well, and they certainly did once they got back on the floor on Saturday night.
“There is always the potential for that and I’ve seen that in seasons gone by we’ve had that problem after a bye, but for us it’s just about the luck of the draw and it was quite timely for us,” Thwaites said.
“We had Kinley and Amelia returning from nationals and they needed the break, and Jewel has been pretty sore and needed the break. It was really just about managing mindsets and making sure they came back ready to work last week, and they did.
“To be honest, it felt like we didn’t have a break so it was timely and while it can be tricky to manage, this year it hasn’t been.”