Overachievers. Under-the-radar. No-name stars. Defensive specialists. How best to describe the Kilsyth Lady Cobras 2012 season?

2011 Regular Season: 18 wins, 6 losses, 3rd overall
2011 Post- Season: def Nunawading (EF), def Bendigo (SF), lost to Knox (PF)
2012 Record: 20 wins, 6 losses, 2nd South conference
2012 Post- Season: def Knox (SF), lost to Knox (Conference Final)
Positives from this year:
Overachievers. Under-the-radar. No-name stars. Defensive specialists. How best to describe the Kilsyth Lady Cobras 2012 season? A little bit of each of the above, yet a little bit more as well. Kilsyth welcomed a new head coach in 2012, yet they also lost an Opal and some other key athletes from last year, and had no genuine bigs.

But something clicked. After an indifferent start to the season, Kilsyth went on an 11-game winning streak between rounds 6 and 13, and that run included wins over Bendigo and Dandenong. Only a dominant Knox kept them from top spot in their conference. Defence became their trademark; Kilsyth finished in the top two in the league for steals per game, and are the only team in the women’s competition with a positive assist to turnover ratio. They were stable and deep; ten players played 18 games or more, eight played 24 games or more, and four played all 28 games. They were strangling teams defensively, were able to make adjustments in-game, had star power in Chantella Perera and Sarah Parsons, yet could also hurt you from anywhere; Kilsyth had four players average 10 or more points per game, and one of the best bench players in the competition in Gemma Kerr who averaged 9.4 points.

There is a lot to like about Kilsyth from an individual perspective. Perera shone like never before in SEABL, finishing 9th in MVP voting and making it to the All-Star team. Had injury not struck her down, she would have finished amongst the frontrunners. Sarah Parsons was again instrumental, her all-round game fitting perfectly into the Lady Cobras structure. She was second in the league for steals and assists, finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, and again took out the Golden Hands award. The underrated Hayley Moffatt was consistent again, and the long defender often took on big defensive assignments and came out on top. Moffatt finished 5th in Defensive Player of the Year voting and the fact that she played with the West Coast Waves in the WNBL Pre-Season tournament is testament to another good year. Kristen Barnes, the nearest thing Kilsyth had to a big, steadily developed as the year progressed, and her outside shooting touch stretched defences as well. And of course, Peter Gay’s ability to shape the team into a powerhouse in his first year in the competition saw him take home one of the biggest accolades – SEABL Coach of the Year.
Negatives from this year:
Kilsyth’s season hit a major stumbling block when Chantella Perera went down with a back injury. She did not play a game from round 12 to 19, and it coincided with a drop in form for the team; Kilsyth went 6-4 in her absence, and although it didn’t jeopardise their finals hopes, it took some of the wind out of their sails and meant they couldn’t challenge Knox for the South conference minor premiership. Additionally, some of the losses for the regular season are mystifying. The defeat to Launceston away in round 5 and the loss to Brisbane at home in round 16 are inexcusable in retrospect.

But probably the biggest negative for the year was the inability to win the South Conference final on their home court against Knox. Going into that game, the Lady Cobras had set themselves up perfectly – they had won the opening playoff game at the State Basketball Centre to earn a week off and also the right to host the Conference final. A major opportunity slipped through their fingers when they dropped that game, and it continues a worrying tend of an inability to beat the Raiders – their archrival – on their own court. Had they won that game, the SEABL Championship game could’ve been an entirely different result. Who knows how the athletic and defensively strong Lady Cobras might have fared against Dandenong?
Possible Departures:
Kilsyth must be keen to try and keep as many players from this year together, but it won’t be easy. Firstly, Perera will get decent court time playing for Bendigo in the WNBL and her workload will need to be monitored at the start of next season. As suggested in the Knox report card, Perera could also be in a Raider uniform in 2013 if she wants to reunite with former coach Cheryl Chambers. But a tougher task could be holding onto Parsons and Moffatt. All coaches love those tough, defensively strong players and they could be on the shopping list at other clubs.
Next Year:
Type of players needed:
Although Kilsyth have an even and deep line up, they are screaming out for players in a couple of key positions. Firstly, the point guard. Take nothing away from Jordyn O’Shea – she’s only a season away from 100 games experience and can get the ball up the floor, but that’s about it. She doesn’t have the ability to create off the dribble or break games open in the same way that Jane Chalmers or Tess Lavey can. A gun player in that position would also take significant pressure off Parsons to be the key playmaker. Secondly, the pivot. As suggested, Barnes improved as the year progressed, but she never looked comfortable banging bodies in the post and was far more comfortable floating in and out of games near the three-point line. Imagine someone like Holly Smith, Tayla Roberts or Abby Schrader in that team…
Likely Improvement:
Rebekah O’Donnell and Emily Van Poppel are both players to keep an eye on for the future. O’Donnell especially has a promising future as a back up big in the immediate future, and a more significant role in the longer-term. Unfortunately for Van Poppel, she plays in a position where there is already an abundance of players ahead of her in the rotation.
With their brand of tough basketball, the Lady Cobras should return to the playoffs in 2013. But they won’t go under the radar as they did this year. Opposition teams will be a lot more on guard against Kilsyth, and will scout the team far harder. The second time around may be the real test of the Coach of the Year.
Overall Grade: 8 out of 10