THE Perry Lakes Hawks had to battle hard to overcome a Cockburn Cougars playing full of heart and spirit despite being undermanned, but in the end the defending champs got the win they needed on Saturday night to stay in top four Men’s SBL hunt.
Cockburn came into the contest on Saturday night at Wally Hagan Stadium on a high following three straight wins including beating the Perth Redbacks and Warwick Senators on buzzer-beaters from Hayden Bell and Jakob Knight respectively.
Then there’s always some added feeling when 2016 championship-winning coach Matt Parsons brings his Perry Lakes team into the building so the stage was set with the Hawks needing a win to stay in the top four hunt.
The Cougars continue to play without an import and were without powerhouse Jaarod Holmes for the second straight game and point guard Seva Chan for a third successive match, but that didn’t stop them taking it right up to the Hawks.
Gavin Field and Julian Pesava did all they could to keep the Cougars within touch, but the Hawks were on top all evening to end up leading by as much as 18 points and then surviving a couple of nervous moments late to come away with the 100-89 victory.
With both teams entering the contest on three-game winning runs, it always shaped as a fascinating battle at Wally Hagan Stadium.
With their significant size advantage with the Cougars without Jaarod Holmes and import Eric Milam, the Hawks got on top early thanks to Brian Carlwell and Shawn Redhage, and then went up 10-4 with a triple from Mitch Clarke.
It was then 12-4 with a Redhage layup and 18-7 when captain Ben Purser knocked down a jumper.
Five successive Gavin Field free-throws steadied the Cougars but Perry Lakes still led 26-16 by quarter-time.
Successive Ryan Smith three-pointers put Perry Lakes up 17 early in the second period but Cockburn wouldn’t go away starting with Matej Mandic hitting his second triple of the term.
The Hawks’ lead did grow to 18 with four quick Clarke points, but heading towards half-time, Pesava and Steven Van Lit hit threes for the Cougars and after 32 points apiece for the term, Perry Lakes went into half-time leading 58-48.
Perry Lakes again went up 17 early in the second half but the Cougars kept coming starting with Pesava hitting again from downtown. Field hit another three too to close the gap and when Mandic hit his third from downtown for the night, Cockburn was just six down at three quarter-time.
The Hawks restored a 13-point lead to start the fourth period too and while the Cougars couldn’t quite come all the way back, they gave it quite the shake.
Pesava was proving unstoppable for the Cougars and when he knocked down a three with just under five minutes to go, the game was right up for grabs with the Hawks’ lead down to six.
Smith and Purser responded with baskets for the Hawks but then Mitch Hampson kept the Cougars in touch with a pull up jumper.
When Redhage knocked down a triple, Perry Lakes was back out by 13 and that proved enough but not before a couple of Matt Vinci triple showed that Cougars weren’t going down without a fight for the full 40 minutes.
In the end, Perry Lakes won by 11 to get the win it needed to make it four on the trot to improve to a 15-7 record to stay in the top four race. Cockburn is now 6-15 but is a significantly better team than that suggests.
Hawks coach Matt Parsons wasn’t surprised with how hard the Cougars made his team fight for the win, but he was proud of his team’s effort get over the line with Clint Steindl still to come back in.
“Cockburn, to their credit, were always going to come in and roll the dice. They obviously understand they are undermanned in a sense that they may not have big names or imports, but what they do have is 12 guys who can compete,” Parsons said.
“When you have a guy like Gavin Field and even Julian Pesava who is an A-grader in this league, you are going to get results and push teams.
“They managed to do it last week and if they can find that third scorer like Jake Knight was last week or Jaarod Holmes has been, then they’ll probably win more games than they lose. The reality is they are better than advertised and their ladder position says, but it was certainly a gritty game.
“It was a game of momentum and runs, and we obviously had the most runs in the end to win but they had their time in control too. But we have to sustain it too and when things aren’t going our way, we have to weather that storm and go back the other way.
“I thought both teams played in the right way and both coaches would walk away happy with the way the game went.”
It was no surprise given their size advantage with Brian Carlwell, Kyle Sovine and Shawn Redhage that the Hawks dominated the boards with 57 rebounds to 36 from the Cougars, but that’s even more reason to credit Cockburn for being so competitive despite that.
Redhage ended up top-scoring for the Hawks with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists as he matched up with Gavin Field for a lot of the night in a fascinating tussle.
Hawks captain Ben Purser also had 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists with Ryan Smith contributing 16 points, eight boards and four assists, and Mitch Clarke an impressive 16 points and five rebounds.
Carlwell also had eight points and 10 rebounds, Sovine seven points, four boards and three assists, and Rob Cassir six points, four rebounds and three assists.
In just his second performance of the season, Julian Pesava was brilliant for Cockburn with 33 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals on shooting 13/21 from the field, 4/7 from three-point range and 3/4 from the free-throw line.
Gavin Field had a tough shooting night at 5/19 but still contributed strongly with 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals including going 9/11 at the stripe.
Mitch Hampson added 10 points, six steals and three rebounds for the Cougars, Matej Mandic nine points and two steals, and Matt Vinci eight points.
MEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 17
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 89 lost to Lakeside Lightning 92
Mandurah Magic 48 lost to Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 66
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 77 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 115
Lakeside Lightning 117 defeated Schweigen East Perth Eagles 88
Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars 89 lost to Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks 100
Northern Star Resources Goldfields Giants 84 lost to Willetton Tigers 89
Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames 66 lost to Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers 74
Print Sync South West Slammers 71 lost to Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 79
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 116 defeated Bethanie Warwick Senators 103
Texture WA Perth Redbacks v Quadrio Earthmoving Geraldton Buccaneers – Belmont Oasis 12.00pm