The severely shorthanded NBL1 Cobra Men have fallen short on the road to Dandenong, losing to the Rangers, 84-95 on Saturday night.
Entering the weekend with just eight available players, the Cobras were facing an uphill battle from the start, with Owen Odigie out with a knee injury and Sean Macdonald (U19 World Championships) and Desmond Owili (Kenyan national team) away on national team duties. It didn’t stop there, though, with Chris Patton hobbled with a nagging hip injury and almost the entire roster battling a case of the flu during the lead up.
But the ailing Cobras hung tough throughout, catching fire in the second period to take a 51-50 lead into the half. Behind the hot hand of Michael Wearne, the Cobras drained seven three pointers in the second quarter alone, with Wearne going a perfect 4-for-4 from deep. But their blistering shooting would cool off after the break, though, with the Rangers taking a six point lead into the final stanza.
After a Peter Hooley layup brought Kilsyth to within 74-76 with seven minutes remaining, fatigue kicked in – and in a hurry – for the Cobras, surrendering a crushing 13-0 run over the ensuring four minutes. It was a horror stretch for the Cobras, going 0-4 from the field while committing four turnovers, falling into a 15 point hole late that proved too much to overcome.
Despite the loss, Cobras head coach, Justin Schueller, was proud of the efforts from his undermanned squad, with the ailing Cobras entering Saturday’s game with limited on-court preparation.
“We knew it was going to be a big ask but at half time we felt we might be able to find a way to generate the win but we ran out of legs down the stretch,” Cobras head coach Justin Schueller said.
“The effort the boys put it was a great one, and I’m proud of the way we didn’t make excuses and tried to find a way to win. It was a rough week with almost the entire team being hit with illness. We didn’t get to have a full practice as a lead in, and you’re always up against it when that happens.”
Wearne and Felix von Hofe led the Cobras with 17 points apiece on Saturday, combining to go an impressive 10-for-15 from beyond the arc. Isaac Turner and Tohi Smith-Milner (seven rebounds) each finished with 14 points, Hooley added 11 and six assists, and Ben Ursich chipped-in with nine points and five rebounds off the bench.
While the loss did not come as a surprise considering the grim circumstances surrounding the Cobras, the loss stung for Schueller and co, who would have moved back into second place in the league standings with a win. And the news didn’t get any better for the Cobras, who learned that Odigie’s knee injury (tendon tear) was far worse than its initial three to four week recovery timeline, with the defensive specialist now ruled out for the remainder of the season.
“Saturday’s loss hurts because we knew a win would have helped us move closer to locking top-two (positioning) away, but that’s still our goal,” Schueller added.
“Sadly we learnt that we’ll have to do it without Owen, as scan shows a bigger tear and therefore he will be out the rest of the season.”
The Cobras will look to bounce-back this weekend as they head south to take on the Hobart Huskies (Friday) and NW Tasmania Thunder (Saturday) in the notoriously challenging ’Tassie Double’. The Cobras will be travelling shorthanded once again, though, with MacDonald and Owili set to re-join the team early next week for the home stretch of the regular season.
“We will have Sean and Des back after the Tassie double, which will be great heading into the last couple weeks of the season,” Schueller said.
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