The Kilsyth Cobra Men have seen their 2018 SEABL season end in stunning fashion, surrendering an 18 point halftime lead to lose to the Nunawading Spectres on the road, 70-78 in their Preliminary Final on Saturday night.


“It’s a gut wrenching way to finish a season,” Cobras coach Justin Schueller said.


“We gave ourselves a great chance to put ourselves in the Grand Final but our shooting and execution let us down in the second half.”


The Cobras appeared well on their way to a SEABL Grand Final berth as they unleashed a dominant two-way first half display. Behind another first half masterpiece from Isaac Turner, the Cobras took command early on, leading by as many as 23 points before taking a 48-30 lead into the main break. The Cobras shot a blistering 51 percent during the opening 20 minutes of play to full their hot start, but it wouldn’t last, with a third quarter collapse on the offensive end completely turning the game around.


After Ben Ursich cleaned up his own miss to score inside early in the third period, the Cobras offence turned into a nightmare scene, with Kilsyth going 12 straight possessions without a basket. And the Spectres would make them pay, roaring back into the game with an 18-0 run to tie the game at 50. Back-to-back baskets by Turner and Dane Pineau would put the Cobras ahead by four, but the Spectres closed the third quarter with five quick points to take their first lead of the game since the opening minutes of action.


With a world of momentum and the home crowd on their side, the Spectres continued to pour it on in the final stanza, opening the period with a 19-5 run to go ahead, 74-59, and complete a remarkable 38 point turnaround. Chris Patton and Felix von Hofe would bury a trio of three pointers in the final moments, but it was too little, too late for the Cobras, as they saw their season come to a bitter end.


The Cobras will mull over Saturday’s loss, a game which saw them in prime position to secure a SEABL Grand Final berth. Kilsyth picked up where they left off a week prior when they put on a four quarter clinic in a blowout win over Bendigo, but unfortunately for Schueller and co., the Cobras could only produce two quarters of magic on Saturday night.


“Our first half was great; we built on what we did the previous week and our game plan was clicking, allowing us to shoot the ball at a high clip,” Schueller said.


“But in the second half we couldn’t throw (the ball) in the ocean. We got the same great looks but just didn’t convert, and our inability to be able to get to the free throw line hurt us.”


“That coupled with second chance points really hurt us. But credit to Nunawading as they deserved the win.”


Leaning on the deep ball for much of the game (Kilsyth shot 11-for-35 from three), the Cobras got to the foul line a season-low four times on Saturday, a far cry from their 23 attempts against the Braves the week prior. The Cobras surrendered 14 second chance points, including eight during the Spectres second half resurgence.


Turner capped a stellar debut SEABL season with a team-best 20 points on Saturday; von Hofe added 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting from deep; Patton and Sam Daly each finished with 11 points, and Dane Pineau chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds. Despite Kilsyth’s hot start and a combined 8-for-17 shooting from three by Turner and von Hofe, they were unable to make the Spectres pay with their sagging defence, with the rest of the Cobras lineup combining to shoot just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc.


Despite finishing tied with the Spectres for the league’s best regular season record and advancing to within a game of a SEABL Grand Final, Schueller maintains that his group fell short of the lofty expectations he and the coaching staff placed on the team. But with that winning mentality instilled throughout the roster, Schueller’s goal remains the same moving forward – being a national championship to Kilsyth.


“(Saturday’s loss) is not good enough from our point of view,” Schueller said.


“We made good steps forward this season but our goal wasn’t to be in the final four; it was to win a championship. We will sit with this all off-season and we need to use this feeling as motivation for next year. Our goal is to bring this group back and keep building what we think can be a successful program.”


Schueller also had some parting words for the Kilsyth fans, which travelled in large numbers to support the Cobras on the road against Nunawading, while making the two weeks prior at home a spectacular, booming playoff atmosphere.


“I want to say a big thanks to our fans this season who helped make our home floor a fortress,” Schueller added.


“I’m just disappointed we didn’t do better for them.”


While Schueller and the playing group remain somber over Saturday’s loss, in time the Cobras will celebrate what was an outstanding year for the team. Their 15-5 record was match only by the Spectres and Hobart Chargers – the two teams who will play-off in next week’s Grand Final – and their Preliminary Final berth was the Cobras first since the 2014 SEABL season. The team also boasted a pair of award winners, with Turner named to the All-SEABL Second Team while Owen Odigie was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.