It had been over 500 days since the NBL1 Cobras played a regular season game, but boy was it worth the wait.
Corey Jeffs drilled a last second three pointer to give the Cobra Men a thrilling 69-68 win over the Waverley Falcons on Saturday night to tip-off the 2021 season in spectacular fashion. It was a dream NBL1 debut for head coach Pete Godfrey, who recorded his first career win in front of a big opening night crowd.
“It’d been a 20 month off-season, so first and foremost it was just great to be back on the floor,” Godfrey said.
“For me personally coaching a Cobras team again after five years, such a great feeling. There’s nowhere like Hugh McMenamin Court on a Saturday night.”
“The NBL1 Women set the tone for the night. Great first up win for Coach (Hannah) Lowe and the Cobra Women, so we had a gym full of energy when we stepped out.”
That home crowd energy was present throughout Saturday night, rising to another level in crunch time to help the Cobras overcome a seven point late.
Trailing, 59-66 with under three minutes remaining, the Cobras got gritty on both ends of the floor to spark a late surge, starting with a Ben Ursich corner three off an assist by Adi Tomada to cut the Falcons lead to four. Newcomer Deng Riak then flexed his interior muscle with an emphatic rejection at the rim, then, following a pair of free throws by Tomada, scored inside on the Cobras next possession to tie the game with under a minute to go. The Falcons would respond with a go-ahead bucket by veteran Bennie Lewis to take a two point lead, setting the stage for Jeffs’ final second heroics.
Coming out of a timeout, the Cobras executed coach Pete Godfrey’s final play to perfection, with Jeffs flaring off a Riak screen to bury the go-ahead three pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining, sending the Kilsyth crowd into a frenzy. The Falcons potential game-winner was off, as Tomada rotated across to force a difficult contested runner as time expired to move the Cobras to 1-0 on the seson.
“The last shot was a couple of seconds early, and a few feet further out than we drew it up; but in the heat of the moment, we got the shot we wanted for the player we wanted,” Godfrey said.
Despite trailing late, and Jeffs going 0-5 from deep up until his game-winner, Godfrey showed supreme trust and confidence in his players throughout, and was pleased with his team’s opening night performance overall.
“In the main we felt the game was played on our terms, but we certainly have work to do on knocking down open looks, finishing around the rim, and defensive transition at times,” Godfrey added.
“The fellas have already bought into playing an unselfish brand of the game which will serve us well throughout the season. From a coaching perspective, rightly or wrongly, I prefer defensive oriented grinds, they reveal character, and to be sure Saturday night was a grind.”
Tomada led the Cobras with game-highs of 18 points and four assists to go along with nine rebounds in an ultra-impressive debut, Riak recorded a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 23 minutes, Joel Naburgs added 12 points in his first game since 2016, Jeffs’ late three saw him finish with nine points, while Ursich and Tim Lang chipped-in with eight points apiece.
The Cobras will look to build on their spectacular start when they head to Knox to take on the rival Raiders this Saturday night. One of the biggest rivalries in Australian basketball, Saturday’s doubleheader showdown on the road with the Raiders marks the first of two rounds of play for the famed Ashes trophy (Women 5:30pm; Men 7:30pm). With the Cobras home crowd playing a major factor this past weekend, Godfrey hopes to see more of the same at the State Basketball this Saturday.
My sincere thanks to the Cobra faithful for turning out for Game 1; o doubt in my mind the crowd helped us turn that late 7 point deficit around,” Godfrey said.
“With 10 more home games in season 2021, we look forward to your loud and proud support, and it would be great to see and hear the State Basketball Centre full of Kilsyth supporters as we tackle arch rival Knox for the first time in 2021.”
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