The NBL1 Cobra Men have sent an early message to the rest of the league, following a 72-61 home win over the reigning champion Nunawading Spectres.




The win highlighted just how quickly coach Pete Godfrey’s group has gelled to start the 2021 season. Just two weeks prior to the regular season tip-off, the Cobras suffered a blowout loss to the Spectres, but since have developed impressive chemistry on both ends of the floor to start the season 4-1.


“Anytime you face the defending champs is a challenge, a big challenge,” Godfrey said.


“Nunawading arrived with a deep and talented roster – even with a couple of major outs (Simon Conn and Tom Wright) – and we went in without Tim Lang and a couple of guys carrying illness. Fresh in our memory was a 35 point lesson the Spectres handed us in a practice game a few weeks ahead of the season.


Behind yet another stifling defensive performance, the Cobras raced ahead early on Saturday night, with Corey Jeffs, Deng Riak and Jackson Brazier sparking a 17-4 second quarter run to put Kilsyth ahead by eight at halftime. A back and forth start heading out of the locker room saw the Cobras hold a 44-37 lead with four minutes remaining in the third period, but they would pull away once again, closing the third on a mini run before putting the afterburners on to start the fourth quarter.

Mitch Dielemans opened the final stanza with a triple, and then Jeffs and Ben Ursich sent the home crowd into a frenzy with a pair of and-one finishes – the first in which Jeffs put former Cobra Peter Hooley in a blender with a spectacular spin move finish. The surge put Kilsyth ahead, 65-47, with seven minutes remaining, and one final Spectres run would prove too little, too late, as the Cobras cruised to their fourth win of the season.


Godfrey was pleased with his team’s execution on the defensive end, as the Cobras held Nunawading to a season-low 61 points. Keeping the Spectres under 70 was a main focus for Godfrey and co. heading into the weekend, a target they far exceeded on Saturday.


“We stuck with our game plan for most of the contest and did the things that we knew we needed to do to be in the contest at the business end,” Godfrey said.


“On just five games of data the analytics said that if Nunawading score 69 or under, they lose, so we adjusted our defensive target accordingly. A really solid team D effort. We have other boxes we know we need to tick to be competitive, and Saturday night we ticked most of those.”


While the Cobras were clicking defensively, Ursich, Riak and Jeffs continued their hot shooting starts carry the load offensively for the Cobras. Ursich led the team with 17 points, Riak recorded a 15-point, 14-rebound double-double, and Jeffs added 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in an impressive all-around performance.


“The starting combination of Ben and Corey in the two and three is coming along really nicely. A combined 30 points, 11 boards and five assists, with both carrying solid defensive assignments at the same, time augurs well for this season of course, but for the next few years of the senior roster as well,” Godfrey said about his talented young wings.


Godfrey was also impressed with the performances of Riak, Dielemans and Hamish MacDonald, who earned his first NBL1 start – and minutes – following a big start to 2021 with the VYC Cobras, which saw him earn league Player of the Month honours for April.


Deng’s double double was massive, particularly without Tim in the line up, and his adjustments coming out in the third quarter helped us get control of the contest,” Godfrey added.


“Mitch continues to grow in the back up point guard role which is pleasing, and to be able to take the VYC Player of the Month in Hamish and slot him into the NBL1 starting lineup for 28 minutes, is a testament to the player himself, and to the quality of the program that has always underpinned the senior men’s team at Kilsyth. We’ve grown some exceptional local talent, and Hamish has all the tools to be an elite defender at our level as he continues to hone his offensive game.”


The win moves Kilsyth into the top-four of the league standings, giving the Cobras a nice buffer as they enter a challenging three-week doubleheader stretch. Up first is a road battle against the Diamond Valley Eagles on Saturday, before returning home on Sunday to take on the league-best NW Tasmania Thunder. Facing the 5-1 Thunder at home poses a tough test for Godfrey’s team, but he is confident the Cobra fans will continue to give his group a big boost – both at home and on the road.


“We now head to a season defining three consecutive doubleheaders; six games in 16 days and just two of those are at Home. So thanks in advance Cobra faithful for coming out to our next couple of home games against North West Tassie and Ringwood – and if by chance you want to hit the road with us at anytime, you are of course more than welcome.


“Shout out to the home fans and our game night support crew – the energy at home carries us without question, particularly when we are on the wrong end of a run or a swing.”


The Cobras take on the Thunder at home on Sunday at 2.00pm, with the Women opening the afternoon at 12pm when they play host to the Launceston Tornadoes. Tickets are on sale now – click here to book yours today.