They may be new faces, but they still know how to excite. The new-look NBL1 Women tipped-off their season in in style on Saturday night, pulling away late in overtime for a thrilling 84-74 win at home over the Waverley Falcons.
In a game featuring some wild momentum swings, coach Hannah Lowe’s showed some championship poise late, led by dominant crunch time play from Tia Hay and Carly Turner.
Trailing by 11 early in the final period, the Cobras unleashed a 16-4 run, capped by Turner 3 and Hay transition layup of a terrific defensive play by Georgia Booth to take a 64-63 lead. The Falcons would respond with five quick points by Aneta Bandilovska to go ahead by three with 42 seconds remaining, but Hay came up big again, slashing through the lane for a difficult left hand layup while being fouled, completing the three-point play to tie the game with 22 seconds remaining. Turner snuffed out a potential go-ahead layup by Bandilovska, emphatically swatting the guard’s shot out of bounds with 2.4 seconds remaining. Waverley were unable to get a shot attempt off before time expired, guaranteeing the Cobra fans five extra minutes of basketball on opening night.
Turner got the Cobras going in the extra session with a score inside off a pretty feed by Hay, and Sarah Haberfield followed with a spectacular defensive play, racing from the weak side corner to draw an offensive foul, wiping away what would have been an easy Falcons basket. Hay and Turner capitalised with back-to-back three point bombs – the latter coming off a brilliant wrap-around pass by Lauren Scherf – and following a Waverley score, Bree Whatman put the final nail in the coffin with a pull-up jumper to go ahead by seven, and the Cobras would cruise the rest of the way to start season on a high note.
First year Head Coach Hannah Lowe was thrilled with the Cobras resolve during crunch time, which generated plenty of excitement for a raucous home crowd.
“It was exciting to get the win in round one, and more so in front of our own crowd,” Lowe said.
“We are a new group and have a lot of growth to do, but it’s exciting to see those moments where it all came together. The close games always test your group and your own mental toughness and down the stretch we really saw some girls stand up.”
The Cobras mental toughness was tested all game long, but they responded to each challenge thrown their way – a promising sign this early in the season. Kilsyth trailed by eight after the opening ten minutes of play as they were plagued with a horror shooting start, but responded with an explosive 25-4 second quarter run to take an 11 point lead just before halftime. They fell victim to a 13-0 Falcons run spanning the third and fourth periods to fall in an 11 point hole, but were able to find enough big plays on both ends of the court late to squeeze out a win.
Turner led the Cobras with a monster stat line, recording 20 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots in the win. Hay scored 13 of her 17 points in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime and added four steals; Scherf was big down low as she finished with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double; Whatman added 13 points and six assists; and a pair of young rookies – Booth (seven points, six assists) and Nikita Young (nine points, five rebounds, two blocks) – were outstanding off the bench, providing a major spark for the Cobras during their fourth quarter surge.
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