The NBL1 Cobra Men have continued their mid-season resurgence and playoff push, defeating the second-placed Nunawading Spectres at home on Saturday night, 99-87.


After as sluggish start, the Cobras got going in the second period and never looked back, putting on an absolute show and riding a pair of spectacular performances by Tohi Smith-Milner and Peter Hooley to record a vital win over the Spectres to stay in the mix for a top-two finish in the regular season.


Trailing by one at the end of the first period, Smith-Milner and Hooley sparked a big second quarter surge to give the Cobras a nine point lead at the half. Smith-Milner scored 11 points in the period and Hooley added five and four assists, but it was a newcomer – Michael Wearne – and Ben Ursich that fuelled a key 11-0 Cobra run in the second, giving Kilsyth a lead they would not relinquish.


Hooley, Smith-Milner and Ursich continued to to fire away in the third, sparking a 9-0 run to blow the game wide open. Hooley set up Smith-Milner for a spectacular alley-oop finish to punctuate the run, with the New Zealand big man sneaking behind the back of the Spectres zone for a thunderous dunk to get the home crowd on its feet. Back-to-back threes by Isaac Turner and Hooley put the game beyond reach, pushing the lead out to 21 at the end of the third period, and the Cobras cruised the rest of the way for one of their biggest wins of the 2019 season.

Each dialling in their best performances of the 2019 NBL1 season, Smith-Milner and Hooley were simply unstoppable throughout, with Smith-Milner recording game-highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Hooley added a rare triple-double in the win, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Turner and Wearne added 13 points apiece in the win, and Felix von Hofe chipped in with nine points in the win.


While the Spectres were without three key veterans in Dain Swetalla, Tom Wright and Andrew Steel, the Cobras entered Saturday night undermanned themselves, with Sean Macdonald (Australian Under 19 team), Desmond Owili (Kenyan national team) and Owen Odigie (knee injury) out, and starting centre Chris Patton hobbled with a hip injury. But it was the Cobras depth that shone through, with Ursich, Patton and Mitch Dielemans combining for 21 points off the bench to compliment an outstanding performance from the starting group.


Cobras coach Justin Schueller was thrilled with his team’s performance on Saturday night, in particular the starring role played by Smith-Milner.


“It was a great win by the group; we had guys out and a couple battling injuries so I’m really proud of them,” Schueller said.


“Tohi was outstanding from start to end — not just his offensive production, but his job to make Conn (former SEABL MVP Simon Conn) work for his shots was important in the result.”


“He has found another gear in the past couple of weeks. His challenge is consistency now and if he can keep leading us it will go a long way to our run to the playoffs.”


Schueller was also impressed by Hooley’s stellar-around night, with the Cobras guard picking the Spectres apart with a combination of slashing drives, three pointers and precision passing.

“Any triple double is a special performance and it was great to see Pete playing that way,” Schueller added.


“He is a match up nightmare and when he’s efficient with the ball he is hard to stop.”


The win was the Cobras third in a row, boosting their record to 9-5 and placing them just one game behind the Spectres for second in the NBL1 league standings. They’ll look to make it four straight this Saturday night, when they head to Dandenong to take on the Rangers, tipping-off a challenging four game road trip.