The NWBL Cobras have opened their 2019 regular season campaign with a 2-2 split during their four game weekend in Brisbane.
Despite heading up north shorthanded to start the season, the Cobras were able to record a pair of impressive wins over the Red Dust Heelers and West Adelaide Thunder.
Without veteran Sean Groenewegen for the weekend, the Cobras were able to easily take care of the Heelers, 90-45 on Friday night behind outstanding performances by Tristan Knowles, Michael D’Amelio and rookie Jaylen Brown, with the 14 year old Brown recording a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double in his first NWBL game.
The Cobras struggled to replicate Friday’s success on Saturday, though, falling to championship contenders the, Perth Wheelcats and Wollongong Rollerhawks.
“Both Wollongong and Perth were at full strength and a very big line up against our low pointers,” Cobras coach Shane Furness said.
“We played some terrific defence at times and stuck to our offensive structure which was pleasing to see, but the bigs from both teams were too fast and strong for our low point category guys overall.”
High pointers – usually classified as 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 or 4.5 players, have a greater range of lower body movement on-court in their chairs, while low point category players – 2.0 and below – suffer from limited to no lower body movement. The Cobras travelled to Brisbane with just two high point players – Knowles and the 14 year-old Brown – while Perth and Wollongong entered with four and three, respectively, meaning the Cobras faced an uphill battle right from the get-go.
The Cobras were able to bounce back on Sunday, though, overcoming a slow start to down the Thunder, 60-52. Knowles recorded a 30-point triple double in the win, while D’Amelio thrived once again with an increased offensive role, adding 13 points and nine rebounds in the win.
“West Adelaide got the jump on us 2-12 early as we failed at the defensive end of the court with poor energy and rotations,” Furness said.
“But the boys regrouped, pushed hard and locked down the inside which slowed their scoring. Once we settled into our high energy defence, our offensive structure fell into place as well and we were able to take control of the game.”
Furness was pleased with his groups resilience to open the season, with the Cobras playing well below the point limit for much of the weekend (a five man lineup can feature up to 14 points on the court) and without one of their most valuable players in Groenewegen.
“The boys played well overall for the weekend and took the opportunity to have some low pointers handle the ball and learn how to play out of position,” Furness said.
We had to play well under the 14 point requirement without Sean, and played with lineups as low as 9.5 points on the court which was a challenge. Jeremy Tyndall did a great job of playing a guard spot along side Tristan, and with Tristan and a 14-year old our only high-pointers, the boys did a great job to focus and come away with two wins.”
Knowles – one of Australia’s most decorated wheelchair basketball players – finished Round 1 by averaging a remarkable 28.8 points, 13 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, while D’Amelio averaged just under 10 points and seven boards over his first four games.
Following a two-week break, the Cobras make their home debut on May 31 in the first of a trio of weekend games against the Queensland Spinning Bullets.
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