The NBL1 Cobra Women have advanced to league’s inaugural Championship Game following an 82-59 destruction of the Nunawading Spectres on Saturday night.
“I am so happy and proud of the way the girls played on the weekend,” Cobras head coach Sam Woosnam said.
“Their commitment to our scout and game plan was outstanding and really highlighted how much their hard work has paid off.”
Riding spectacular performances by Lauren Nicholson, Klara Wischer, Sarah Boothe and Kara Tessari, the Cobras were able to pull away with a dominant final three quarters of play, outscoring the Spectres, 60-38 over the final 30 minutes of play to advance to their third championship game in the past five years.
Trailing by two early in the second period, Boothe and Wischer caught fire to push the Cobras ahead for good as they overpowered the Spectres inside. With Wischer slashing to the hoop for a number of spectacular finishes, and Boothe’s signature hook shot falling, the pair combined for 17 second quarter points to help the Cobras opened up an eight point lead at the half.
Nicholson took centre stage in the third, scoring nine in the period while completely suffocating Spectres leading scorer, Maddie Garrick, on the defensive end. The signature moment the game came late in the third quarter, as Boothe and Wischer rose in unison to emphatically stuff a layup attempt by Chelsea D’Angelo to spark a fast break, and Nicholson finished it off with a layup – plus the foul – to push the lead to 13 and send the crowd into a frenzy.
The Spectres would pull to within 11 during the early moments of the final period, but a layup by Tessari and a pair of daggers from Wischer – who delivered the fatal blows in crunch time to Bendigo a week prior – blew the lead out to 19, securing an incredible win at home and a berth on the NBL1’s inaugural championship game.
While the foursome of Nicholson, Boothe, Wischer and Tessari were a handful on the offensive end, it was the Cobras performance on the other end that Woosnam believed was the key to Saturday’s win. Nicholson played a primary role in hounding Garrick into a 5-for-20 shooting performance, while the Cobras as a whole limited the Spectres to just four free throw attempts and three offensive rebounds for the game – remarkable numbers and a testament to the team’s cohesiveness one the defensive end.
“We did a great job of limiting their second chance points whilst also creating second chance points for ourselves through pure effort,” Woosnam said.
“The girls as a whole are just so coachable and it makes it a great environment for everyone to be in.”
Nicholson led the Cobras with 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists; Wischer was spectacular in the early going to finish with 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists; Boothe added another monster double-double, recording 14 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocks; and Tessari found her stroke from deep to contribute 16 points and three assists in the win.
The win now sets up a showdown with the Geelong Supercats on Saturday night at the State Basketball Centre for the 2019 NBL1 championship. The Cobras faced the Supercats early in the season, falling in a tight one at Geelong, but a lot has changed since the start of the 2019 regular season. Woosnam’s team looked in serious danger of missing the playoffs after a nightmare 1-4 start, but responded by playing some of the league’s best basketball from May onwards to secure a spot in the title game.
“I’m sure at the start of the season people who not have pictured us playing in the Championship Game and it feels so good to be there,” Woosnam said about her team’s incredible mid-season turnaround.
“I love watching how hard they work for each other – we are playing great team basketball right now and are playing with a lot of confidence.”
While the Cobras have played some incredible basketball of late – in particular the past two weeks – so have the Supercats, who finished the regular season with a 17-3 regular season record and advanced to the title game by defeating Bendigo at home in a three point thriller on Sunday. Boasting a lineup that features a trio of Australian Opals in Sarah Blicavs, Ezi Magbegor and Zitina Aokuso, plus a number of proven veterans with championship experience, the ultra-talented Supercats will test the Cobras on Saturday, setting the stage for an epic title battle.
“Geelong are going to be super tough and we haven’t seen them since early in the season,” Woosnam said about Geelong.
“They have some very talented players on their team and Herbie (coach David Herbert) is a great coach. We are a much better team since then so I am really excited for a good week at training and can’t wait for Saturday.”
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