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Round 7 Cougars Wrap – Men

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Everything that could go wrong seemed to come to fruition for the Cockburn Cougars men in the Round 7 double against the Perth Redbacks and Warwick Senators, but the opportunities grabbed by some emerging players was a positive.

It always loomed as a challenging Round 7 double in the NBL1 West for the Cougars starting at home to the Perth Redbacks on Friday and then up against a supremely talented Warwick Senators on Saturday.

The Cougars came into Friday’s clash against the Redbacks at Wally Hagan Stadium already without Seva Chan and Hunter Clarke before then losing Josh Hunt to an ankle injury, and having Kyle Armour fouling out.

In the end, the Redbacks were able to take advantage to win 90-83 despite Demetris Morant finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two assists for Cockburn.

Rhys Vague also had 14 points and eight rebounds, Gavin Field 12 points and four assists, Will Yarran 11 points and two boards, Armour 10 points and three assists, Riley Bensemann five points, three rebounds and two assists, Matt Clifford three points, three boards and two assists, Noah Stewart three points and three rebounds, and Nathan Pond three boards, two assists and two boards.

Circumstances meant that Clayden had to put a lot of faith in the likes of Yarran, Stewart, Jordan Lee (five assists), Matt Clifford and Riley Bensemann as Friday night’s game unfolded.

With Chan and Clarke not playing, Armour fouling out and Hunt having hurt his ankle in the second quarter, Clayden had no choice and while it was a frustrating game to lose, he hopes it can have some longer term benefits.

“If you look at the team we had out on the court in the third and fourth quarters against Redbacks on Friday night, it was very inexperienced,” Clayden said.

“The Redbacks did a good job coming in being motivated and they got up early, and when they saw we were in a bit of trouble with our rotations and Kyle getting in foul trouble, we couldn’t get any flow.

“Gibson did a good job on Rhys and it just perpetuated what has been happening all year with us struggling to score.

“Demetris stepped up and did what he needed to do, but defensively we kept making silly errors and it looks good keeping a team to 90 points, but there were way too many defensive errors for our liking.

“We gave up too many easy points and had to keep clawing our way back, and it became too hard so that’s the big issue that we’ve got at the moment.”

Given the Cougars came into Saturday night’s game against the Senators without Hunt and Chan, and then with Clarke and Vague less than 100 per cent the longer the game went, then Clayden could accept his team got beaten purely in terms of the talent match up.

After all, it’s a Senators team with a current Perth Wildcats guard Michael Harris, former Adelaide 36ers import Todd Withers, and surrounded by some strong talent and experience.

However, what Clayden couldn’t cop was seeing his team get outworked and the rebounding numbers were ugly by the end of the night with Warwick pulling down 49 rebounds for the night to 26, and 20 at the offensive end to eight.

There might have been excuses, but Clayden will never accept seeing his team getting outworked.

“If you look at Withers, he sacrificed his game to make sure Demetris didn’t get his 10 rebounds and as soon as we shoot the ball, he’s grabbing and holding Demetris, and good on him for doing what he needed to do for his team,” Clayden said.

“But to give up 20 offensive rebounds and watching their guys like Tyler Shand and George Pearl outwork our guys, that’s what we couldn’t let happen and we did get outworked.

“They nearly had more offensive rebounds than we did total rebounds, and they had two or three guys boxing Pondy out with two or three of our other guys standing there doing nothing.

“There were some reasons for that and Hunter and Rhys were playing hurt, but we’re not making excuses and we knew this was going to be a tough period for us with Josh’s injury really not helping.”

There’s always positives to find even on a tough weekend like it was for the Cougars in the losses to the Redbacks and Senators, and it was in the opportunities grasped by some younger and emerging players.

Will Yarran is proving a surprise packet this season and while he’s still in a learning process this early into his NBL1 career, but the 24-year-old is showing exciting signs and combined for another 19 points across those two games.

Noah Stewart is showing as well that he belongs at this level while Matt Clifford has taken on the chin some hard early lessons this season on his return to the league, to now be finding his groove again too.

“We keep saying that these guys have to take their chances and of course, seven games into an NBL1 career after playing so many years of WABL, he’s still trying to learn how to be an NBL1 player,” Clayden said.

“So he’s going to make mistakes and won’t always make the right decisions, but the fact is he can fill a role for us and we have to keep educating and teaching him, and giving him opportunities. He’s had a tough couple of years but is doing everything right and we have to keep rewarding him.

“Noah Stewart was the same on Friday night and everyone in the league sees him as a defensive specialist, but at times we had Will and Noah having to play the Josh Hunt role with Kyle in foul trouble and we had no one else out there.

“There are some positives there but it would be nice to get rewarded and it does feel like you’re pushing uphill anytime you get into a bit of a bind like this.”

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