In Rod Popp’s final game as Head Coach, the Cobras won in classic Popp fashion, with Kilsyth putting the clamps down defensively as they held the CoE to a season-low point total.

Trailing after one period thanks to sloppy play on the offensive end, the Cobras switched on in the second quarter, holding the CoE to just two points and forcing eight turnovers to turn a three point deficit into a 15 point halftime advantage.

Joel Naburgs, Gerard Leonard and Kieran Murphy fuelled Kilsyth’s second quarter surge, combining to outscore the CoE, 13-2, over the final three minutes of the half. After Murphy split a pair from the line, Leonard turned back the clock on a slashing drive inside for two, then Naburgs reeled-off six consecutive points to put the Cobras ahead by 11. They weren’t done, though, as Murphy broke free for an emphatic dunk in transition and Leonard followed with a steal and layup to put Kilsyth ahead, 31-15, heading into the locker room.

The Cobras late run put them ahead for good, and they turned to their frontline in the second half to seal the deal, with Michael Knoll and Tim Lang punishing the CoE’s slender frontcourt down low. The pair combined for 26 points over the final 20 minutes of play, helping Kilsyth win its eighth home game of the season.

Lang led the Cobras with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Naburgs and Knoll added 11 points apiece. Leonard scored eight points in his 334th and final SEABL game – capping a superb end to the season as he took over the team’s point guard duties – and Murphy, Avery Johnson and Jackson Brazier wooed the crowd with highlight plays throughout the evening.

Kilsyth held the CoE to just 32% shooting from the field and forced 24 turnovers, leading to 20 points on the other end. Though their defence was outstanding, the final victory margin could have been much higher, as the Cobras missed 16 of their 29 free throw attempts.

The win moved Kilsyth’s record to 10-14 to end the season, leaving them one game short of the South Conference’s final playoff spot. Just one game separated the Cobras, Albury-Wodonga, NW Tasmania and Sandringham for fourth place in the South, with conference newcomers the Bandits and Geelong taking the final two playoff positions.

Prior to tip-off, Leonard gave a pair of tributes to Popp and Cobras ‘Superfan’ Tim Whitehead, before handing the mic over to his Coach who thanked his players and their families in an emotional two minute address.

Popp finishes his tenure as Head Coach with two playoff appearances in three seasons, highlighted by his team’s Conference Championship run in 2014 which saw them fall just short of a National Championship game berth. Leonard ends his career with 4131 points and 575 made three-pointers, cementing himself as one of the all-time greats at Kilsyth. 

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