The Cobra Men tipped-off their 2018 SEABL season with solid performances on the road in Tasmania, cruising to an impressive opening night victory over Hobart on Friday before falling short in a last second thriller to NW Tasmania on Saturday.
Facing their first regular season test together on Friday, the new-look Cobras passed with flying colours, with fill-in coach, Mark Watkins, leading the team to a 80-72 victory. Riding a stifling defensive performance and balance scoring production, the Cobras were in control from start to finish, leading by as many as 25 points as they took down a team many had tabbed as championship contenders.
“Hobart were tipped to make to top-four and by some to win the championship this year, so to get a road win first up against them was big,” Watkins said.
“The boys opened up with shooting the ball very well and played some tough defence to give us a big lead.”
The Cobras put on a scintillating first half offensive display, shooting 54 percent from the field – including 7-12 from deep – en-route to a 51-30 lead at the break. The Chargers didn’t go down easy, though, cutting the Cobras lead to 71-58 midway through the final period to energise the 1500-strong Hobart fanbase. But two minutes of spectacular defence from Owen Odigie and paint dominance from Dane Pineau pushed the Kilsyth lead back up to 19 points, enough to keep Hobart at bay and cruise – albeit a few minutes early – to their first win of the new season.
“We relaxed a bit late to let them close the gap, but we did enough good things early on to hold on and win comfortably,” Watkins added.
Felix von Hofe recorded an 18-point, 10 rebound double-double in his first game for the Cobras, fellow debutant Isaac Turner scored 12 points, Odigie added 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and the frontcourt duo of Pineau and Desmond Owili were a handful on the glass, corralling a dozen rebounds each.
After a resounding victory on Friday night, the Cobras appeared well on their way to sweeping their Tasmanian road trip, but ran out of gas late to lose a heartbreaker to NW Tasmania, 70-72.
The Cobras looked the goods early on, exploding out of the gates to take a 42-28 halftime lead. After a layup from Turner pushed the Cobras lead out to 18 early in the third period, the Thunder began to chip away, closing to within 58-48 entering the final stanza. And with fresh legs on their side, the Thunder continued to pile it on late, taking a four-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Both teams then traded a handful of empty possessions, before Turner drilled a huge three-pointer to cut the Cobras deficit to 70-71 with 49 seconds remaining. The Cobras defence then locked in once again, recording their fourth straight stop and giving them a chance reclaim the lead. But Turner’s go-ahead three-point try was just off, and Odigie misfired on a desperation turnaround jumper in the final seconds as the Cobras saw a surefire win slip through their hands.
Though there were some encouraging signs, Watkins was disappointed with the Cobras finish to the weekend, which saw them shoot just 5-18 from the field in the final 10 minutes against the Thunder.
“We started well and played some good defence in the second quarter to hold a good lead at the half, but the boys got tired late and they (NW Tasmania) hit some big shots from a few of their youngsters to run over us in the last minute,” Watkins added.
“It was a disappointing loss for as I felt we were the better team for most of the night.”
Turner led the Cobras with 15 points, Chris Patton started strong to finish with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Pineau rounded out a solid weekend with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Cobras will look to get back on track in front of their home crowd as they get set to host Frankston on Saturday night in their regular season home opener at 8pm. The Cobras-Blues showdown will cap a special School Holiday Tripleheader, which sees the WNWBL Cobra Women playing host to Queensland at 3.30pm, followed by the Lady Cobras as they make their SEABL home debut – also against Frankston – at 6pm.
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