BOTH teams might have been out of the West Coast Classic finals hunt with a healthy local rivalry between them they were never going to do anything but give their all and it was the Willetton Tigers who beat the Cockburn Cougars to open Round 9 on Friday night.
The Tigers and Cougars both entered Friday night’s game at Willetton Basketball Stadium on 3-6 records so finals were out of the equation, but there’s always something to play for and the two teams produced a strongly competitive contest.
In the end, the Tigers’ quality and experienced championship players led by Emma Gandini and Desiree Kelley were the major difference and on their new showcourt, it was Willetton who prevailed 75-68 against Cockburn.
Both teams now have one more chance to finish their West Coast Classic campaigns on a high by backing up on Saturday night with the Tigers heading up to HBF Arena to take on the Joondalup Wolves while the Cougars are back to Wally Hagan Stadium to play the Perry Lakes Hawks.
There might not be much for the Tigers or Cougars to gain now on Saturday night, but there’s everything to play for in terms of their opponents.
The Wolfpack can lock away the regular season championship with a win against the Tigers while the Hawks can secure a finals spot as well by beating the Cougars and end the finals prospects of the Perth Redbacks, Lakeside Lightning and Kalamunda Eastern Suns in the process.
Haylee De Sousa and Tia Morgan combined to help the Cougars to a 5-2 start at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Friday night as the teams began their double-header weekends to close the West Coast Classic.
Emma Gandini then began to warm up for the Tigers and put her team in front and then out to an 11-7 advantage after she scored seven individual points in-a-row for the home team.
Sophie Doran then hit one from deep to stretch Willetton’s advantage to six and they still led 20-15 after one.
De Sousa and Nicole Roberts both knocked down triples to open the second period to see the Cougars regain the lead but the seesawing then continued and by the time Hayley Winter converted a three-point play, the Tigers were in control leading by eight.
The Cougars found something leading into half-time, though, highlighted by back-to-back triples from Tahlia Fejo and that cut Willetton’s lead to three at the main break.
It took less than two minutes for the Tigers to get their lead out to a game-high 10 points to start the second half including five quick points to Emma Gandini. But Jodee Sontay steadied the Cougars with consecutive baskets although Willetton retained control to still be up 58-49 by three quarter-time.
The Cougars didn’t ever give up the ghost, though, and when Tia Morgan drained a long bomb, it was a four-point ball game with six minutes left.
It was then down to three points thanks to a Nicole Roberts three-point ball and then just one-point with Kahlia Morgan drew the foul and nailed both her free-throws with under three minutes on the clock.
The Cougars were still close enough down just five with 30 seconds left as they came out of a timeout. But on two successive possessions they turned it over at halfcourt, the Tigers went in for open layups to Winter and Kelley, and the game was done.
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There wasn’t too much between the Tigers and Cougars the entire game and no side had a bigger lead than the Tigers’ 10-point advantage at one stage.
Cockburn actually won the rebound battle by five but they did cough up 26 turnovers from which the Tigers were able to score 22 points from. In contrast, Cockburn scored just two points from turnovers and only 24 points in the paint to 42 from the Tigers.
The Tigers did a better job of controlling the ball when getting out to run too and had 15 fast break points to two.
Emma Gandini had a tremendous game for the Tigers and she did it in just under 24 minutes of court time to finish with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Captain Desiree Kelley also had 13 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists for Willetton with Hayley Winter continuing her tremendous West Coast Classic with 13 points and five assists.
Taryn Priestly did well against her former team with eight points, four assists and three steals as well.
Haylee De Sousa top-scored for the Cougars on the night with 12 points to go with four rebounds and three assists while Tahlia Fejo finished with 11 points and three boards, and Tia Morgan 10 points and two rebounds.
Emma Burke battled hard for five points, 12 rebounds and three assists as did Jodee Sontay with four points and seven rebounds.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – WOMEN
Willetton Tigers 75 defeated Cockburn Cougars 68
Cockburn Cougars v Perry Lakes Hawks – Wally Hagan Stadium 5pm
Lakeside Lightning v Perth Redbacks – Lakeside Recreation Centre 5pm
Warwick Senators v Rockingham Flames – Warwick Stadium 5pm
Joondalup Wolves v Willetton Tigers – HBF Arena 5pm
Mandurah Magic v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 5pm