The NBL1 Cobra Women have been crowned NBL1 Champions following a spectacular 86-76 win over the Geelong Supercats on Saturday night.
The Kilsyth Cobra Women have been crowned NBL1 champions following a spectacular 86-76 win over the Geelong Supercats in the league’s inaugural title game on Saturday night.
The Cobras completed a stunning postseason run by dominating the heavily favoured Supercats at the State Basketball Centre, with many predicting that Geelong – who entered with a 19-3 record and boasted a trio of Australian Opals – would overrun the Cobras for the league’s inaugural championship. But a sublime first half performance by the Cobras – led by an offensive explosion from Lauren Nicholson and Klara Wischer – saw them race out to a 51-31 halftime lead, with the Nicholson and Wischer singlehandedly outscoring Geelong over the opening 20 minutes of play.
Nicholson would continue to pile it on in the third, helping push the Cobras lead out to 68-40 late in the period and providing enough of a cushion to absorb a late Geelong run. The Supercats would heat up in the final period, to pull to within 14, but Nicholson and Sarah Boothe buried Geelong late with a number of clutch baskets – the last coming on a tough fadeaway jumper by Nicholson with under two minutes remaining- and the Cobras stormed the court to celebrate the NBL1’s first ever championship.
Saturday’s stunning performance rounded out an incredible postseason run by the Cobras, which saw them defeat the 19-1 Bendigo Braves on the road before blowing out the Nunawading Spectres by 23 at home in their Preliminary Final the week prior. And while the Cobras first two playoff performances were bordering on perfection, somehow they took it to another level on Saturday night.
“We were just so focused on getting the job done,” Cobras Head Coach Sam Woosnam said.
“Geelong had been the team to beat all year and we knew what we needed to do to get it done.
“Our preparation was spot on and we came out in that first half on fire. Defensively we were fantastic and we managed to force a lot of errors and made them pay on the scoreboard.”
Nicholson saved her best for last, leading the Cobras with a game-high 36 points, adding 10 rebounds and six assists to take home Finals MVP honours. But it was her performance on the defensive end which was just as impressive, as she absolutely blanketed Australian Opal Sara Blicavs into just seven points – on 3-for-11 shooting – and seven turnovers, just one week after forcing Spectres leading scorer, Maddie Garrick, into 5-for-20 shooting night.
“Loz was remarkable,” Woosnam remarked about her superstar guard.
“It’s been such a joy to watch her dominate this year. She gets stops and gets buckets, and the number of times she came up with a loose ball by diving all over the floor — she was never going to let us lose.”
While Nicholson dialled in a performance for the ages, she wasn’t the only Cobra to come up huge on Saturday night. Wischer scored 16 points, five rebounds and three assists to cap a stellar playoff campaign; Boothe added 10 points; Kara Tessari recorded nine points, eight assists and five steals; while Alison Downie pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with seven points and three assists. Clare Camac and Emily Fryters were big off the bench, too, with Camac contributing eight points while Fryters displayed her signature toughness on the interior as she played extended minutes with Boothe in foul trouble.
With outstanding across-the-board contributions from her team, Woosnam attributed her group’s focus – a word she has emphasised in recent weeks – to Saturday’s stellar performance. And with the entire roster completely locked-in from the get-go, all that was left for Woosnam to do was gently guide them from the sidelines as a season worth of hard work and dedication paid off on the floor.
“Every single player on the team did what they had to do and played their role to perfection,” Woosnam said about her close-knit group.
“They were that in-sync and prepared to do what it took to win and follow our game plan that I hardly even had to coach during the game. A few enforcing words to steady them at certain times is all they needed.
“What a team.”
The Cobras championship was extra for Woosnam, having tasted bitter defeat in the SEABL championship game in both 2015 and 2016. The Cobras were finally able to get over the hump this time, while delivering Camac her seventh title and Fryters her second championship in her final NBL1 game.
With Fryters hanging her sneakers up following a sensational 300-plus game career, Nicholson and Tessari returning to Adelaide and Bendigo, respectively, for the upcoming WNBL season, and Boothe departing for a summer season in Greece, many of the Cobras now pursue offseason opportunities before looking at a potential return to Kilsyth in 2020. So for now, Woosnamis just soaking up the championship feeling while expressing her gratitude to the Cobras fan base.
“Thanks for all involved at Kilsyth Basketball for a great year – we had such a special group which loved the support from everyone,” Woosnam beamed.
“I hope you enjoyed watching us play as much as we enjoyed being out there representing the Cobras.
“It’s a surreal feeling to be the NBL1 Champions- see you all in 2020!”
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Star import Sarah Boothe has re-signed with the Kilsyth Cobras for the 2020 NBL1 season. Boothe returns to Kilsyth on the heels of an impressive 2019 campaign, playing a key role in leading the Cobras to the inaugural NBL1 championship in September. After a slow start to her debut NBL1 season, Boothe finished the