The Cobras playoff hopes took a hit in Round 13 of the SEABL season, losing a pair of games to the NW Tasmania Thunder and Geelong Supercats to fall to 8-12 on the season.
On Saturday night, the Cobras almost pulled off another miraculous comeback win at home, roaring back from a 27-point deficit before missing a chance to force overtime in the final seconds, ultimately losing to the Thunder, 80-84.
After a nightmare start saw them fall into a 37-10 hole, the Cobras began to chip away, but still trailed by 10 points with under 80 seconds remaining in the game. But three three-pointers in succession – two by Jamie Ahale and one from Tariq Naqqash – saw the Cobras pull within 80-82 with just over 30 seconds remaining. The Thunder’s Daniel Sepokas then missed a pair of free throws, giving Kilsyth a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. The Cobras got a good look, but Ben Ursich’s contested layup rimmed out, capping a nightmare evening for coach Justin Schueller’s team.
Chris Patton led the Cobras with 24 points and 10 rebounds, Daniel Dillon added 11 points and five rebounds, and Kieran Murphy chipped-in with 10 points off the bench.
While the defeat stung, the Cobras misfortunes were compounded with the loss of Dillon, with their point guard suffering a season-ending achilles injury in the fourth quarter of Kilsyth’s comeback bid. Dillon suffered the injury with less than six minutes remaining, and is expected to miss not only the remainder of the SEABL season but also the 2017/18 NBL season, where he was signed with Melbourne United.
With Dillon out of the lineup, Kilsyth faced a quick turnaround as they headed to Geelong to take on the Supercats on Sunday. And though they fought valiantly – trailing by just four points entering the final period – the Cobras ran out of gas late to drop their second game in as many days, losing to Geelong 62-79.
Without their floor general and top playmaker, the Cobras were held scoreless over the first five minutes of the final stanza as they saw another winnable game slip out of reach. The Cobras offensive struggles were highlighted by a 7-33 shooting performance from downtown on Sunday, capping a poor shooting weekend as they went just 5-21 from behind the arc the night prior.
Naqqash led Kilsyth with a game-high 19 points on Sunday, while Owen Odigie was the only other Cobra to reach double figures in scoring, adding 12 points and eight rebounds.
While Schueller was disappointed with his team’s back-to-back losses, the first year coach was pleased with his group’s resolve and still has the Cobras focused on pushing for a playoff berth.
“It was a disappointing weekend for us; obviously with Dan’s injury but we let two games go that we were in positions to win,” Schueller said.
“The loss of Dan hurts us, but I’m proud of the fight and resilience of our group. We have been dealt a tough hand this season with a fair bit of adversity but there are no excuses from us. We need to get back to work and we still expect to play finals.”
Though the Cobras stumbled in Round 14, Albury-Wodonga and Sandringham also lost games on the weekend, meaning the fourth and final playoff position is still very much up for grabs with four weeks remaining. With Albury-Wodonga facing a difficult run home, fourth place in the East could come down to the Cobras and Sabres, but with Sandringham holding the head-to-head advantage, Kilsyth will have to finish a win clear to claim a playoff berth.
The Cobras will look to bounce back at home on Saturday night when they host the Frankston Blues in what is now a must win game. Tip-off is scheduled for 8.00pm, with the Lady Cobras opening the evening against the Blues at 6.00pm.
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