THE Lakeside Lightning bounced back from their first Women’s SBL loss in almost a year overcoming the Cockburn Cougars in a physical clash on Easter Thursday at Wally Hagan Stadium.
It was always going to be a big job ahead of the Cougars to take down the Lightning who not only were coming off their first loss since going down to the Perth Redbacks midway through 2018, but Cockburn came into the clash without superstar Kisha Lee.
That didn’t stop the Cougars throwing everything at the defending champions and the game was tighter than the final scoreline suggested, but Lakeside did enough to win 83-64 even without the presence of Ellyce Ironmonger inside.
It was a new feeling for Lakeside coming into the Easter Thursday clash at Wally Hagan Stadium following a defeat with their 21-game winning run which included last year’s Grand Final coming to an end last Friday at the hands of the Willetton Tigers.
It was a big ask ahead of the Cougars, though, having lost their previous three games and with Kisha Lee sidelined through injury as they took on the reigning champions.
It was an exciting and up-tempo start to the game, though, with both teams combining for 48 points in the opening quarter with scores tied at 24-24 after one.
The Lightning on slightly pulled away in the second quarter to head into half-time leading 42-38.
Lakeside pulled away further with a strong third quarter made up of 27 points to 13 as they led 69-51 at three quarter-time but it continued to be a physical encounter with tempers threatening to spill over with neither side taking a backward step.
The Lightning were able to hold on to their advantage in the fourth quarter to win 83-64 but it was a more competitive showing from the Cougars than that suggests especially in the absence of their genuine MVP candidate, Lee.
The biggest difference in the finish was Lakeside’s ability to knock down their shots. The Lightning ended up shooting 30/73 from the field at 41 per cent and 12/42 from three-point range at 28 per cent.
In contrast, Cockburn struggled going 16/66 from the floor at 24 per cent and 6/20 at 30 per cent from downtown. But it was an aggressive approach at both ends of the floor by the Cougars highlighted by their 33 free-throws attempted, of which they made 33.
The Cougars took advantage of the Lightning being without Ellyce Ironmonger inside to collect 22 offensive rebounds but they could only convert that to nine second chance points. The 25 turnovers proved costly too for Cockburn with Lakeside scoring 19 points from those.
Ali Schwagmeyer, in her second last week of the season with Lakeside, top-scored for the Lightning with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists on an efficient 9/14 shooting.
Ash Grant added 20 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists and three steals for Lakeside with Courtney Byrnes contributing 12 points, six boards, three assists and two steals, and Courtney Green 10 points, three rebounds and two steals.
Lakeside coach Craig Mansfield was happy with the way his group responded to everything Cockburn threw at them, but knows they need to continue to improve to rise to the challenges that are coming.
“We give Cockburn a lot of credit in the sense that they are going through a bit of adversity. They lost a couple of guards coming into the season and now Kisha’s out with what looks to be a hand injury,” Mansfield said.
“They could have packed it up but they played really, really hard and they shot the three really well. On top of that, we defended the ball poorly so they were able to get downhill, get at the hoop and get threes.
“We were able to score freely, particularly in the first quarter, but it was 24-all and that’s too many points for us to give up. We are just going through one of those phases at the moment where we are trying to find some form and the team is moving around a fair bit.
“They were up and about too to play against us. I don’t know if it’s been an adjustment for the girls, but for me this year I feel like teams are up to play us. Tigers were really up last week and Cockburn were this week, and teams seem to really want to beat us.
“In the long run that’s better for us because the more hardened you are the better prepared you are for finals, but we have to battle through that and start better. Next week against Rockingham, they’re a good team and we’ll have Ellyce back but we’ll have to compete inside and defend better. That’s going to be a big test.”
Already without point guard BJ Moyes for the season with a knee injury and now missing Kisha Lee, the Cougars need plenty of players to step up to be competitive and coach Megan Thompson did get that.
Ruby Benn top-scored with 16 points, five assists and three rebounds with Kahlia Morgan delivering her career-best performance made up of 13 points and three boards.
Matilda Muir also had 12 points and three rebounds for Cockburn while 277-game veteran Nicole Roberts produced 10 points, six boards, two assists and two steals.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 6
Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks 68 lost to Willetton Tigers 80
Schweigen East Perth Eagles 43 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 95
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars 64 lost to Lakeside Lightning 83
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 84 defeated Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames 54
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic 62 defeated Print Sync South West Slammers 51
Bethanie Warwick Senators 93 defeated Texture WA Perth Redbacks 57