SUZY Batkovic has challenged the Newcastle Hunters to fight their way out of the corner they have painted themselves into.
The defending Waratah Basketball League women’s champions are in danger of missing the finals, and a chance to defend the breakthrough title they secured in 2016, after their 83-50 loss to Bankstown last Sunday left them languishing in sixth spot with a 4-7 win-loss record.
CHALLENGE: Suzi Batkovic.
Newcastle need to win their final five games of the regular season and hope for favourable results from games involving teams above them on the ladder if they are to sneak into the semi-finals at Maitland on August 12.
The first of those five assignments are the Illawarra Hawks, the team they defeated in the title decider last year, at the Snakepit in Wollongong on Saturday.
Illawarra (1-10) are in worse shape than Newcastle, sitting at the bottom of the ladder, but Batkovic said the Hunters were taking nothing for granted.
The triple Olympic medallist and five-time Women’s National Basketball League Most Valuable Player hopes her young teammates embrace the challenge facing them in the next five weeks.
Both teams were beaten by Bankstown last weekend, as the Bruins disposed of the Hawks 57-38 just 24 hours before blitzing Newcastle.
“We’ve put ourselves in a tough position after last week’s loss to Bankstown, so every game is must-win for us now, starting with this one against Illawarra,” Batkovic said.
“We’re a young team so we need to be more composed at both ends of the floor and be prepared to compete hard for 40 minutes.”
Newcastle men’s coach Darren Nichols remains upbeat despite Bankstown inflicting an eighth straight loss on his team last Sunday.
The 10th-placed Hunters (2-12) are only one spot behind Illawarra (4-9), and are keen to avenge a 77-64 loss to the Hawks at Broadmeadow on March 26.
If their results against second-placed Bankstown (10-4) last weekend are any form-guide, the Hunters are not without hope of ending their losing streak. The Bruins savaged Illawarra 97-57 last Saturday but Newcastle were significantly more competitive in a 92-77 loss the following day.
Nichols said the emergence of Youth League players Jacob Foy, Jakob Dorricott and Joel Rauch has been one of the highlights of a rebuilding season, and was proof there were better times ahead.
The women’s game is scheduled for a 4.30pm tip-off, followed by the men at 6.30pm