The NBL1 Cobra Men have bounced back with a solid Round 9 weekend, losing a thriller on the road to the Eltham Wildcats on Saturday before lighting up the Waverley Falcons on Sunday in spectacular fashion.
Entering the weekend on a four-game skid, the Cobras brought a renewed focus on the defensive end, and it showed over the final six periods of play on Saturday and Sunday, helping them claw their way back against Eltham late and completely dismantle the Falcons on Sunday.
On Saturday night, the Cobras were hampered by a nightmare shooting performance, falling behind by as many as 17 before losing to the Wildcats, 74-79. With Chris Patton singlehandedly keeping Kilsyth in the game early on, the Cobras trailed by just seven early in the third period despite some serious struggles shooting the ball. But a two minute lapse – resulting in a 12-2 Wildcat run – midway through the period saw the deficit balloon out to 70-53, putting the Cobras on the ropes in the NBL1 Game of the Week.
The Cobras weren’t done, though, and just as he did the week prior against Albury-Wodonga, guard Sean MacDonald ignited a 13-1 Kilsyth rally spanning the third and fourth periods to make a game of it late. MacDonald started the run with six straight points, with Tohi Smith-Milner and newcomer, Michael Wearne, each contributing to the run as the Cobras closed to within five with nine minutes remaining in the game. With the defence kicking into overdrive on both ends of the floor, the Cobras and Wildcats each went without a field for the next five minutes, until MacDonald broke the streak with a clutch three pointer and Patton followed with a score inside to make it 72-74 with just over two minutes to play.
A pair of free throws by Eltham’s Justin Aver pushed their lead back out to four, but Patton responded with a putback inside to again make it a one possession game. The Cobras then got a much needed stop, and Smith-Milner had an open look at a three from the wing to take the lead, but it rattled in and out — the first of three opportunities for Kilsyth to tie or take the lead in the final 70 seconds of play. After another stop, Peter Hooley lost control on a layup attempt with 38 seconds remaining, and the Cobras gave up a key offensive rebound on the ensuring possession and were forced to play the foul game.
It worked, as Geremy McKay missed a pair from the line, but McKay came up with the loose ball on his second attempt, and the Cobras Owen Odigie was called for a questionable unsportsmanlike foul – after it appeared that he made a clean attempt on the ball – to seal a disappointing loss. It was the third consecutive game that the Cobras have had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minute of regulation, with a pair of last second threes falling just short last week in Albury-Wodonga to force overtime, while a pair of late turnovers the week prior cost the Cobras at home against Diamond Valley.
Patton led Kilsyth on Saturday night with a spectacular 25-point, 12-rebound double-double, MacDonald was outstanding off the bench with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and Smith-Milner added 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss. While the result was a bitter one for Kilsyth to swallow, the fact they were in a position to take the lead late was impressive in itself, considering the Cobras shot just 34 percent from the field overall, and their two top guns – Isaac Turner and Hooley – combined to shoot just 3-for-22. As had been the case throughout the Cobras slide, their three-point woes followed them on Saturday, managing to connect on just six of their 28 attempts from distance.
What kept the Cobras in Saturday’s matchup was an incredible defensive effort to close the game, one which should not be overlooked despite the loss. Kilsyth held the Wildcats without a field goal for the final 12 minutes and 47 seconds on Saturday night, with that defensive focus and execution carrying over into Sunday’s outing against the Falcons.
Thankfully for the Cobras, their perimeter shooting issues were left in Eltham, as they rode a season-high 16 triples and a stifling defensive performance to completely dismantle Waverley, 101-68 on Sunday afternoon.
With MacDonald injected into the starting lineup, he didn’t disappoint, catching fire for 14 first half points and leading the Cobras to a commanding 50-26 halftime lead. The Cobras would keep their foot on the gas to start the second half, with Turner and Felix von Hofe finding their groove from deep as they combined for four triples in the period to push the lead out to 37. The margin would balloon out to 43 early in the fourth, with the Cobras easing off late as they cruised to a 33 point win to get their season back on track.
MacDonald’s hot start saw him finish Sunday with a game-high 19 points; von Hofe’s late game shooting saw him bury five triples for 15 points; Turner added 14 and four assists; Patton recorded his second straight double-double, recording 13 points, 12 rebounds and four assists; Odigie matched Patton’s game-high 12 boards while adding nine points, and Smith-Milner and Hooley chipped-in with 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the win.
Kilsyth head coach, Justin Schueller, was thrilled by the performances of MacDonald and Patton over the course of the weekend, in particular their contributions on Sunday to help the Cobras record a bounce-back win.
“Sean was outstanding at both leading our group but also finding his own opportunities, and he set the standard on Sunday which went a long way to helping us get the win,” Schueller said about his young point guard.
“Chris was great all weekend, too, and provided a great inside target in for us in both games.”
The Cobras held Waverley to just 35 percent shooting on Sunday, while forcing 23 Falcon turnovers which resulted in 32 points on the other end. That wrapped-up a superb six quarter stretch on the defensive end of the floor – starting in the second half of Saturday night’s loss – much to the delight of Schueller.
“Removing results, I was really happy with the way we got back to our processes, especially at the defensive end,” Schueller said.
“The focus of the group to stay the course and keep sticking to our expectations has been great, and it was great to see our shooting slump go (on Sunday) and see the boys rewarded with a win.”
Sunday’s win saw the Cobras move to 7-5, good for fifth in the NBL1 league standings. Following the Queens Birthday long weekend break, the Cobras return home for their most anticipated regular season game in years, when they play host to long time rivals, the Knox Raiders, for the first time since 2014. With a momentous regular season game looming, Schueller is confident with where his team sits following Sunday’s win. And although they have slipped out of first place in recent weeks, the third year coach believes the Cobras are still capable of not only contending, but winning the NBL1’s inaugural championship in 2019.
“Sunday was the best we have played all year; we’ve set a new standard for ourselves and look to build on it against Knox.”
“We know our best is good enough to win this league.”
The Cobras take on the Raiders in the Battle of the Ashes on June 15 at 7.30pm, with the Women tipping-off proceedings at 5.30pm. The Ashes trophy will be awarded at the conclusion of the Men’s game to the club who wins the regular season series, with the series currently tied at 1-1 after the Raider Women and Cobra Men took out the first two games in the opening night of the season.
The NBL1 Cobra Women have advanced to the NBL1 Championship Game, taking on the Geelong Supercats at the State Basketball Centre in a Saturday night (5pm) title showdown. The Cobras punched their ticket to the title game with a spectacular 82-59 home win over the Nunawading Spectres on Saturday night. The Big-3 of Lauren
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