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Round 8 Cougars Wrap – Women

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It was a dominant Friday night road win and then a streak ending home defeat on Saturday for the Cockburn Cougars women in Round 8 of the NBL1 West season.

The defending champion Cougars opened another double-header in Round 8 on Friday night by racing out to a 13-2 lead against the East Perth Eagles at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre on the way to the eventual 71-45 victory.

Cockburn was then back home to the Warwick Senators at Wally Hagan Stadium on Saturday and it was the Senators who handed the Cougars a first home loss since July 2022 with the eventual 101-93 victory.

On Friday night, the Cougars raced out to a 13-2 lead in the opening six minutes with East Perth managing just the two points in that time.

From there, Cockburn went on to lead 19-8 by the end of the first quarter with the Cougars pulling away further in the second period with another 24 points to 10 to go into the long break leading 43-18.

With the result all but sewn up going into the second half, it was Cockburn just outscoring East Perth 28 points to 27, and to win by 26 in the finish.

Daniel Raber impressed again for Cockburn with 13 points and 10 rebounds with Jewel Williams adding 13 points, four boards and two assists, and Alex Ciabattoni 11 points, four assists and three rebounds.

The Cougars had plenty more contributors with Jaya Scafidi adding nine points and three rebounds, Steph Gorman seven points, three boards and two steals, Jessie Edwards seven points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and Harriet Ford pulled down 10 boards.

Coming off the win on Friday night against the Eagles, it was a rematch from the previous Saturday for the Cougars against the Senators at Wally Hagan Stadium.

Cockburn had won 20 straight home matches at Wally Hagan Stadium dating back to the last loss they suffered on their floor back on July 2, 2022, against the Joondalup Wolves.

The Senators had a week to plot their revenge from losing at home to Cockburn last week while also welcoming in Marena Whittle fresh off her season with Estudiantes in Spain and helping the Australian 3×3 team qualify for the Paris Olympic Games.

The stage was set for a fascinating match up and the Cougars opened up on fire with a 12-point lead during the first quarter which got out to as many as 17 in the second before the Senators worked back into the contest.

By half-time, Warwick had cut the Cockburn lead to 53-50 thanks to scoring 14 consecutive points.

The Senators were then able to go up five in the third frame and then extend that lead out to as much as 10 in the final quarter before ending up winning by eight and handing Cockburn a first home loss in almost two years.

Cockburn slips to an 8-3 record on the season with the defeat with Alex Ciabattoni top-scoring with 24 points to go with six assists, four rebounds and three steals while hitting 4/6 from three-point range.

Steph Gorman also contributed 21 points and seven assists, Jewel Williams 16 points, four rebounds and two assists, Daniel Raber 16 points, nine boards and five assists, and Jessie Edwards 12 points, 18 rebounds and two assists.

Coming off that Friday win, Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites always knew it would be a challenge up against Warwick especially with Whittle into the line-up for the first time.

Whether it was playing a third straight double-header weekend or whatever it was, Thwaites just felt his team weren’t quite at their best.

“We certainly knew it was going to be tricky to navigate match ups with Marena in their line-up and we knew they’d only be able to make a certain amount of adjustments across the week while also bringing her in,” Thwaites said.

“We anticipated those pretty well but I think it was our execution that let us down at different stages. Whether that was mental fatigue off the back of three doubles in-a-row or just poor execution on a single night, that’s what we have to cross check.

“But I thought we were reasonably good, just our defence let us down in patches and we were undisciplined, and our zone offence wasn’t where it needed to be. They did a really good job of jumping in and out of that at different stages.”

Losing the possession battle was ultimate a significant factor with Warwick ending the night taking 10 more field goals than Cockburn along with taking 12 extra free-throws having won the rebound battle by three and forcing the Cougars into 19 turnovers.

“A lot of that stemmed from rebounding which has been something we have been really good at and the week before we did really well on the boards against them,” Thwaites said.

“This time around, they did a much better job on the glass than us and with the line-up we had it probably shouldn’t have been the case but it was. We probably were a little bit more clumsy with the ball through our guard spots as well than we ordinarily would be.”

While it was a loss on Saturday to the Senators, it wasn’t a poor performance like what the Cougars delivered two weeks earlier against Willetton and Thwaites is confident with how his team is placed with Maria Blazejewski now set to make them full strength for the first time in 2024.

“We have responded well and we just came up against a team that was really good on Saturday night, and the league is getting better,” Thwaites said.

“I think there was probably an element of mental fatigue starting to creep in and a lack of discipline, but our biggest thing is that we just have to keep getting better every single week. That will continue to be our focus and that loss was nothing like the one to Willetton.

“It was a really fun game of basketball to watch and there were some tricky match ups for us, and some areas we can tighten up but we’re not too concerned. We just have to make sure we keep getting better leading into another big month.”

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