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Round 7 Cougars Wrap – Women

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Cockburn Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites wanted it to be a sliding doors moment in Round 7 for his defending champion team and he couldn’t have been happier, especially with what he saw against the Warwick Senators.

The Cougars suffered a disappointing 23-point loss the previous Saturday night in the Grand Final rematch to the Willetton Tigers and Thwaites was looking for a strong response from his team in Round 7 in another double-header.

First up on Friday night and they hosted a shorthanded Perth Redbacks at Wally Hagan Stadium and dominated to win 102-44, but what Thwaites really wanted was to see how the Cougars responded when fully tested by a top team.

That opportunity came on Saturday at Warwick Stadium and what Cockburn produced was a tremendous performance to win 87-70 and improve to a 7-2 record by the end of Round 7.

When the Redbacks arrived to Wally Hagan Stadium without their two big guns, Anneli Maley and Natalie Chou, they were always going to be up against it opposed to a motivated defending champions on their home floor.

Coming off the tough loss to Willetton and with a match up against the in-form Senators the next night, Thwaites wanted a tough hit out for his team as they try to turn things up a notch.

In the end, it was a dominant 58-point win for the Cougars with plenty of big performances including 28 points with 6/10 three-point shooting from Steph Gorman.

Jewel Williams added 24 points on 6/8 shooting from downtown while Alex Ciabattoni contributed 12 points and five assists, Daniel Raber 11 points, 21 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, and Harriet Ford seven points and 10 boards.

Regan Turnour-McCarty also had six points and 12 rebounds, Kinley Paterson five points, three boards and three assists, Taryn Priestly five points and three rebounds, Lily Gammidge two points and a block, and Jaya Scafidi two points, three boards and four assists.

“I think we ticked a lot of boxes and got back to playing basketball in a way that we enjoy being out there, and that resonated I think into the following night,” Thwaites said.

Following that win over the Redbacks, the challenge for the Cougars was taking on a Senators team fresh off beating the Joondalup Wolves the night before and who came into the contest with an 8-1 record.

There was also Perth Lynx WNBL guard Chloe Forster having put up 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists over the past five games along with two-time MVP Stacey Barr that the Cougars had to try and keep in check.

In the end, the job that Gorman did on her Lynx WNBL teammate was remarkable to hold Forster to eight points on 1/10 shooting and while Barr did score 20 points, it was on an inefficient 8/27 shooting.

So to force that pair to shoot 9/37 for the game was everything that Thwaites was hoping to see defensively from the Cougars and then up the other end, they put up 87 points with Ciabattoni delivering her best game in Cockburn colours.

She produced 30 points, eight rebounds and four assists on 12/18 shooting and she had plenty of help including Raber finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Williams had another 14 points and four rebounds while Jessie Edwards was back to celebrate her 200th game in the league with 13 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Gorman had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals on top of what she did defensively and all in all, there was plenty for coach Thwaites to like in the performance against a hot opponent on their home floor.

“I call that the Steph Gorman effect (job on Forster),” Thwaites said.

“Those two are good friends and it was always going to be a fun match up (Gorman and Forster).

“It really has been the Forster and Barr show for the Senators and they are obviously two really talented individuals you have to do a job on. You take your eye off Stacey Barr and she can destroy you pretty quickly, which she did the night before and broke the game open for them.

“If you let Chloe get going with some easy looks, she’s hard to slow from there. Our job was to make them as inefficient possible which I think as a collective we did a really good job of. It was a really solid commitment to the plan, and it helps that Chibba’s also really good at basketball obviously.”

While having only seen glimpses of it so far, but what Thwaites has seen from what his Ciabattoni and Raber can do as a combination  in a pick-and-roll has him especially excited for what they can deliver.

With having another big like Edwards and then shooters like Williams, Gorman and Turnour-McCarty around them too, Thwaites likes the pick-and-roll threat they provide even if they have only got to play four games together so far.

“Dani Raber and Alex Ciabattoni in a pick-and-roll is just two really high IQ basketballers working together and what I loved on the weekend was that at any one stage we had five different threats on the floor offensively,” Thwaites said.

“When you’ve got Dani and Chibba in a pick-and-roll, and then you’ve got Jessie Edwards waiting on the weak side for the dump off or Steph and Jewel for a wide open three or you can throw Regan into that mix, it’s a nice place to be.

“We do acknowledge and are fully aware that it’s just one game in a big season but for us I was hoping this weekend would be a sliding door moment. It felt like that and hopefully we build off that momentum.”

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