NEWCASTLE Hunters kept their Waratah Basketball League women’s finals hopes alive with a gritty 71-64 victory over Illawarra Hawks at the Snakepit in Wollongong on Saturday.
A powerhouse performance by triple Olympic medallist Suzy Batkovic (39 points, 24 rebounds, six blocked shots) and a crucial contribution from 18-year-old junior world champion Cassidy McLean (10 rebounds, five points, two steals, two assists) were the keys to Newcastle’s win.
Coach Mark Gledson said all-rounder Alison Ebzery also played a vital role against last-placed Illawarra (1-11), amassing eight points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. The sixth-placed Hunters improved to a 5-7 win-loss record and face another must-win game against seventh-placed Sydney Comets (3-8) at Broadmeadow next Saturday.
“It was an ugly win, but we will take an ugly win over a good loss, and it made for an easier trip home from Wollongong,” Newcastle coach Mark Gledson said.
“We had a good first quarter for a change, which helped set up the win.
“Suzy was very impressive, and she controlled our defence with six blocks and 19 defensive boards, not to mention scoring 39 points.
STAR: Suzy Batkovic.
“Alison played her usual aggressive game, and Cassidy McLean had a great night on the boards. She had 10 rebounds for the game, and six were offensive.”
Newcastle (2-13) suffered a gut-wrenching 93-91 loss to Illawarra (5-9) in the men’s game at the Snakepit on Saturday night. The Hunters trailed by as many as 18 points midway through the second quarter but closed on a 19-10 run to reduce the deficit to 52-43 at half-time.
Newcastle maintained momentum in the third quarter and built a 66-58 lead with four minutes remaining but the Hawks responded to lead 72-70 at the final break.
Youth League trio Jacob Foy (29 points), Joel Rauch (26) and Jakob Dorricott (16) provided the bulk of Newcastle’s scoring, and Foy added nine rebounds and two steals.
“Our slow start cost us, then our press got us back in the game, and it was a fantastic effort from our three youngest players to score 61 points between them,” Newcastle coach Darren Nichols said.
“We fought hard to get back into the game and then lead, because when we were down by 18 it looked like it could have been 40.
“It’s always tough to lose, especially the close ones, but their coach [Darren O’Brien] said afterwards that … we don’t lay down. That’s all we can ask.”