The NBL1 Cobra Men have split their Tasmanian road doubleheader, falling to the Hobart Huskies on Friday before gutting out a gritty win over the NW Tasmania Thunder on Saturday.


Again without a number of key players – Sean Macdonald and Desmond Owili were still away on national team duties, while Owen Odigie is sidelined with a season-ending knee injury – the Cobras entered Round 13 severely undermanned for the third week in a row. And it showed on Friday, with the Cobras faltering on both ends of the floor in the second half as they lost to the Huskies, 62-80.


With the game tied midway through the third period, the Cobras went ice cold from the field, scoring just two points during a six minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters as the Huskies reeled-off a crushing 17-2 run. After finding their groove from three point land in recent weeks, the Cobras couldn’t keep it going on Friday, going just 1-for-18 from deep in the second half – and 6-for-36 overall – to eventually lose by 18.


While head coach Justin Schueller was less than impressed with Friday’s performance, the Cobras focus has been on owning their mistakes and eliminating excuses – something that is easier said than done with a depleted roster. But the Cobras no-excuse mentality served them well, able to bounce back in a big way on Saturday night.


“We were disappointed in our second half performance against Hobart, we shot poorly against their zone and doubled that up with poor D,” Schueller said.


“For the boys to turn it around on the Saturday was great, especially without Pete (Hooley). The resolve of the group to not make excuses and get back to our processes was key.”


The Cobras turned their weekend around with an impressive 86-81 win over the Thunder on Saturday night, battling back from an early deficit and dialling in a stellar second half performance to take control of the game. With Hooley off to the US for a quick trip following the loss to Hobart, the Cobras were down yet another key piece on Saturday, but they were able to overcome that, a long drive north, and playing their second game in as many nights to record one of their toughest victories of the 2019 season.


Riding the hot hand of Isaac Turner and Tohi Smith-Milner, the Cobras trailed by just three at the half, with the pair making a number of timely baskets as the Thunder threatened to pull away in the early going. The pair continued to fire away in the third and the Cobras locked in on the defensive end, holding the Thunder to just 16 points in the period as they took a three point lead into the final stanza.


The Thunder would quickly re-claim the lead in the early moments of the fourth, but a 15-3 explosion by the Cobras – started by back-to-back threes from Michael Wearne and Felix von Hofe – gave Kilsyth the lead for good. The Thunder would make one last push in the final two minutes, trimming the Cobras 11 point lead down to just three, but a big bucket from Chris Patton inside put Kilsyth back up by five with 35 seconds remaining to seal the win.


Patton and Smith-Milner were huge down the stretch for Kilsyth, combining to score the Cobras final 13 points of the game and hold off the Thunders frantic comeback bid. Smith-Milner scored a game-high 25 points to go along with nine rebounds; Turner added 24; Wearne had his best game as a Cobra, recording 15 points and five assists; Patton’s strong finish saw him finish with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists; and Ben Ursich was big off the bench, chipping in with five points, eight rebounds and the game-sealing offensive rebound in the final seconds.

“Tohi was huge again for us, making key plays down the stretch and Isaac set a standard that the whole group followed all night,” Schueller said.


“But contribution from all was the key. Chris had one of his better games, Michael Wearne made key plays when it mattered and the bench contribution was outstanding.”


“It’s a tough place to get wins and to beat them the way we did is a great step forward. We sung the team song with great joy that night.”


The win moved the Cobras record to 10-7, keeping them in fifth place in the NBL1 standings. They can move back into top-four positioning this weekend as they take on Nunawading and Frankston in a season-defining doubleheader. The Cobras head to Nunawading to take on the Spectres on Saturday at 7.30pm, before returning home to play host to Frankston on Sunday.


Sunday’s showdown with the Blues will see the Cobras wearing their limited edition jerseys featuring Indigenous artwork, and the Djirri Djirri dance group perform a pair of dances as part of the NBL1’s Indigenous Round. The Women tip-off proceedings at 12pm, with the Men to follow at 2pm.