The NBL1 Cobra Men have fallen short in a road thriller to Albury-Wodonga, losing to the Bandits, 86-89 on Saturday night.


Trailing, 82-71 midway through the final period, the Cobras closed the game with a furious finish, turning their defensive pressure into overdrive as they quickly cut away at the Bandits lead. Back to back buckets by Chris Patton and Felix von Hofe kickstarted the Cobras run, but they still found themselves trailing, 78-86 with 1:50 remaining after a big basket by the Bandits Debo George – a basket that capped a season-high for the veteran guard. The Cobras weren’t done, though, with Peter Hooley, Sean MacDonald and Tohi Smith-Milner each scoring in quick succession to make it a two point game with 47 seconds remaining.


A pair of free throws by Emmanuel Malou gave the Bandits a four-point buffer with 38 seconds remaining, but after a Smith-Milner turnover, MacDonald forced one of his own, and Smith-Milner scored on a runout to cut it to two once again. The Bandits Jarrod Molnar then split a pair from the line, giving the Cobras a chance to tie the game with under seconds remaining, but Smith-Milner was just off on a three-point attempt from straight on, and von Hofe narrowly missed a desperation, one-legged, falling out of bounds three point attempt as time expired, one which would have sent the game into overtime.


It wasn’t to be, though, as the Cobras dropped their fourth straight game – and second straight by single digits – to lose control of third place in the NBL1 standings.


Hooley led the Cobras with 22 points and four assists in the loss, Smith-Milner and Isaac Turner added 13 and 12 points, respectively, while MacDonald and Patton chipped in with 10 apiece. Despite forcing a season-best 26 turnovers, the Cobras were hampered yet again by a poor shooting night from the outside, going just 7-for-31 from deep. Playing without swingman Ben Ursich, who is currently travelling with the NBL’s new franchise – the South East Melbourne Phoenix – on their tour of China, the Cobras struggled to mightily to slow down Deba George, who lit the Cobras up for a season-high 37 points on a variety of tough, contested jumpers, seemingly having an answer for every Kilsyth push in the second half.



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While another tight loss certainly stings for the Cobras, there were some positive signs to take forward into their doubleheader weekend against Eltham and Waverley. Their late defensive adjustments saw the Cobras force eight turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, which fuelled their late run, while MacDonald showed poise and decision making well beyond his years down the stretch, making a number of impressive plays on both ends of the floor and recording a season-high four steals in the process.


The Cobras will look to put an end to their recent slump when they take on Eltham on Saturday night on the road (8pm) before heading to Waverley on Sunday to take on the Falcons at 2.30pm. With a pair of wins, the Cobras could still find themselves back into top-two positioning heading into the Queens Birthday long weekend break, with their 6-4 record placing them a half game ahead of Geelong – and tied with Waverley – for fourth in the NBL1 standings.