The NBL1 Cobra Women have continued their scintillating mid-season surge, taking down Eltham on the road in a Saturday night heart stopper before blowing out Waverley on Sunday to push their win streak to seven.
As has been the case for the past six seasons, the Sam Woosnam-led Cobras big weekend was fuelled by a pair of stifling defensive performances, made even more impressive by the fact that Kilsyth was without their towering centre, Sarah Boothe, who made a quick trip home to the United States for a family commitment.
“This was always going to be a dangerous weekend for us, with Sarah being back in the US for personal commitments,” Woosnam said.
“But I was so proud of the way the girls all stepped up and played well, especially on the defensive end. We struggled a little bit offensively at times in both games but really locked down on D, it’s so pleasing to see us improving each week on that end of the floor.”
The Cobras did it tough on Saturday night, riding a huge fourth quarter performance by Lauren Nicholson to defeat the Wildcats, 69-67 in the NBL1 Game of the Week. With Eltham entering the evening a half game ahead of the Cobras in the league standings, Saturday’s game carried potential playoff implications, and had a playoff-like intensity to match.
With Eltham threatening to take the lead for much of the final period, the Cobras turned to Nicholson, with the superstar taking over with 11 points in the fourth quarter – combined with some big plays by Taylor Mathers and Alison Downie – to keep the Wildcats at bay. Back-to-back baskets by Nicholson and a Clare Camac free throw put the Cobras ahead by six with under two minutes remaining, but Nicholson would foul out on the ensuring possession and Kilsyth was held scoreless the rest of the way, giving the Wildcats a chance to send the game into overtime –or win it with a three.
But with under ten seconds remaining, the Cobras Bek O’Donnell made the defensive play of the game, making a heads-up play to pick off a drop down pass and save a game-tying layup to secure a sixth straight win for Kilsyth.
Nicholson finished Saturday’s outing with game-highs of 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Kara Tessari was the only other Cobra to score in double-figures, finishing with 10 points and four steals. Camac and Klara Wischer (eight rebounds, five assists) added eight points apiece, but it was the front court contributions by Mathers, Downie, Emily Fryters and O’Donnell that helped the Cobras keep their streak alive. Mathers and Downie combined for eight key fourth quarter points, while Fryters (nine rebounds) was big on the glass, with her, Nicholson and Downie accounting for 12 Cobras 16 offensive rebounds – with six of those coming in the fourth quarter alone.
While the Cobras faced a serious challenge on Saturday, they had no such issues on Sunday as they cruised to a 69-49 road victory over the Waverley Falcons.
With Downie leading Kilsyth to a 13-point lead midway through the second period, the Cobras went ice-cold to finish the half, going scoreless over the final five minutes to lead by just three heading into the main break. But the Cobras would re-group at the half, exploding for a 19-4 run in the third quarter to blow the game open. Their devastating third quarter run proved to be the difference, and Nicholson, Mathers and Tessari put the finishing touches on Sunday’s game, scoring 24 of the Cobras final 30 points as they won their seventh straight game.
Nicholson led the way again on Sunday with a game-high 20 points four assists; Tessari drained four three-pointers to finish with 15 points and four assists, Downie scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half; and Mathers added a season-high 10 points to go along with eight rebounds in a standout performance off the bench.
While Nicholson was her usual spectacular self on the weekend, Woosnam was impressed with the production of her front court reserves, with Mathers, Fryters and O’Donnell making significant contributions while filling the void left by Boothe.
“Loz was terrific on the weekend, and we had a lot of different contributors at different times over the two games,” Woosnam added.
“Emily, Taylor and Bek all did a fantastic job to step up and cover the paint, it was good for them all to get some more minutes.”
The Cobras 49 points allowed was a season-best, tying their round seven performance against Diamond Valley at home. They held the Falcons to just 28 percent shooting on Sunday, hounding leading scorer Kelly Bowen into a 1-for-17 performance from the field. The Cobras are now tied with Geelong as the league’s two stingiest defences, with the Cobras and Supercats leading the NBL1 with just 65 points allowed per game.
Starting the season 1-4, the Cobras record now sit at 8-4 following their weekend sweep, good for fifth in the league standings and just a half game behind Dandenong for fourth. The Cobras will now enjoy the Queens Birthday long weekend break before returning 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.
“After our slow start we are really pleased with where we are sitting right now going into the long weekend break, and we’re looking forward to playing Knox at home reigniting that rivalry,” Woosnam said.
The Cobras take on the Raiders in the Battle of the Ashes on June 15 at 5.30pm, with the Men to follow at 7.30pm. 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 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 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