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The Roller Hawks have been given a stinging reminder that defending their national championship was never going to be easy after the Kilsyth Cobras won their Round 3 fixture, two games to one.

After riding high with 7 wins to start the season Friday’s fixture spelled more of the same for the defending champs as they raced to a 35-15 advantage by halftime, a lead the Cobras were unable to cut down in the second half with the home side winning 81-59.

Saturday’s clash told a different story. The Roller Hawks were missing captain Brett Stibners and despite still boasting a very strong line up, the home side was now an orchestra without its conductor.  At halftime there was only one point in it but a 24-7 third quarter by the Cobras blew the game wide open. The Cobras hit 12 of 15 field goal attempts for the period, lead by a perfect 6 from 6 from Tristan Knowles who finished with a triple double for the game with 26 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

The Roller Hawks could only manage 3 of 14 during the same time span, with Nick Taylor struggling with a hand injury and Michael Auprince unable to break down the extra defensive attention he was receiving in the absence of Stibners, the Cobras going on to win 80-55.

Game 3 of the weekend would then be a decider and with Stibners back in the line up, the advantage swung back in favour of the home side.

The game remained tight throughout with neither side able to build any sort of sizable lead or arrest control of the match. With 2:51 remaining in the game the scores were locked at 64-64. Both teams traded misses before Damon Fent gave the Cobras a crucial 4 point advantage by scoring back to back baskets.

Roller Hawks coach Brendan Dowler called a timeout but on the ensuing play, Nick Taylor missed his shot attempt with the Cobras then extending the lead to 6 through Jontee Brown with less than a minute to play. Michael Auprince cut the lead to 4 with 33 seconds left before both sides again traded misses.  

With 13 seconds left Dowler called another time out but when play resumed Brett Stibners missed his three point attempt that would have cut the lead to one.

A steal by Luke Pople gave the Roller Hawks a sniff with 6 seconds remaining before he was fouled and sent to the free throw line. Pople could only hit one of his two attempts, forcing the Roller Hawks to foul the Cobras in order to save precious seconds.

But Tristan Knowles remained composed, sinking his free throws to seal the game 72-67.

“We started very well on the weekend and did fall into a little bit of a hole in the second game,” said Dowler after the final game. “We improved I thought in the third game so that’s some positives from it but we’ve definitely got some things to work on.”

“I would rate them as the challenge for us this year in defending our championship so we’ll go away and work on some things now.”

Knowles averaged a triple double for the weekend with 23.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 11.3 assists and was ably supported by Shaun Groenewegen who averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists across the three games.

For the Roller Hawks, Brett Stibners lead the way averaging 26 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7 assists in his two games while Michael Auprince averaged 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for the weekend.

In other games, Sydney notched up its first wins of the season defeating Adelaide twice thanks to the return of Clarence McCarthy-Grogan while in Perth, the Queensland Spinning Bullets won both their games against the Perth Wheelcats.

The Roller Hawks remain in first place on 26 points with Kilsyth on 24 and Queensland on 23.

Round 4 of the NWBL is in two weeks (18-20 May) with the Roller Hawks travelling to Hawkesbury as part of a mini-cluster that will see the two NSW teams (Wollongong & Sydney) and the two Perth based teams (Wheelcats & Red Dust) each compete in 4 games over 3 days.


Friday May 4: ROLLER HAWKS 81 def KILSYTH 59

Saturday May 5: KILSYTH 80 def ROLLER HAWKS 55

Sunday May 6: KILSYTH 72 def ROLLER HAWKS 67