Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams made the call earlier in the week that Kilsyth Cobras are hot favourite to take out the inaugural NBL1 competition, and the Cobras gave the outspoken former NBL MVP no reason to change his mind after taking the points over Bendigo Braves on Saturday night and again against Ringwood Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
The pressure of carrying the favourite tag had no bearing on the Cobras as they repeatedly negated the Braves’ fightbacks to win 100-90 on Saturday. It was a case of business as usual, Cobra Tohi Smith-Milner said post-game.
‘Being favourite doesn’t really change anything for us,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a pretty good core group who’ve been with the Cobras for a couple of years now and they’ve had the hype around them before so they’re used to being favourites. We’re just working hard and going out there hoping we can live up to expectations.’
A bye last weekend allowed the Cobras to bed down plays and structures at training, and it showed on the court.
‘That was only our third game together on Saturday, and having the bye helped us,’ Smith-Milner said. ‘We were able able to work on our systems and tonight we showed that when our shots go in, we can be pretty deadly one through five.’
The bench stood tall, too, a factor that will make a difference as the Cobras head deeper into the NBL1 season.
‘Inevitably, we’ll have injuries during the year – we’ve already lost Isaac Turner for a couple of weeks – but our other guys have really stepped up, boys like Sean MacDonald and Benny Ursich,’ Smith-Milner said. ‘In the long run, that’s what’s going to help us to win because we can play ten players throughout the whole game, which is a really good position to be in.’
On Saturday night, Owen Odigie put the Cobras ahead early in the second quarter, and for the rest of the game, the gallant Braves were playing catch up. Odigie blanketed Braves import guard Deonte Burton, restricting him to just 11 points, while Smith-Milner had a hot hand, knocking down 10 from 14 from the field, including 5 from 8 beyond the arc.
Cobras led 50-47 at half-time, a half highlighted by a couple of monster blocks and three-point bombs. By the last break, the Cobras looked well in control, leading by 16. A cool-headed Sean MacDonald sealed the deal at the line in the last, finishing the night with 20 points, including 11 from 13 from the charity stripe.
Kilsyth Cobras backed up the win on Sunday against Ringwood at The Rings, 92-79. After knocking in 59 first-half points to the home team’s 33, the Cobras were held to just eight points in the third term by the spirited Hawks, who reigned in the visitors to within a point. But the Cobras went back to basics to take the points with a 13-point win. Peter Hooley led the charge with 24 points and an impressive 10 assists, and the bench players made a significant contribution, adding 26 points to the scoreboard, compared to Ringwood’s eight.
The Cobras men and women next take on Geelong Supercats at the Geelong Arena on Saturday 27 April and then return to Kilsyth on the Sunday to face the Melbourne Tigers.
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