Basketball: Suzy Batkovic key in Newcastle Hunters' must-win clash with Bankstown

DEFENDING Waratah Basketball League women’s champions Newcastle face a must-win game against Bankstown Bruins at Bankstown on Sunday to remain in control of their own destiny.

BIG-GAME PLAYER: Former Opals and Hunters centre Suzy Batkovic will be crucial against Bankstown. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

BIG-GAME PLAYER: Former Opals and Hunters centre Suzy Batkovic will be crucial against Bankstown. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The Hunters rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat Bankstown 83-75 at Broadmeadow on April 22, but coach Mark Gledson hopes they do not leave their run that late on Sunday.

That was Suzy Batkovic’s first game for the Hunters, posting 32 points and 16 rebounds, and the Hunters will need a similar performance from the five-time Women’s National Basketball League Most Valuable Player against Bankstown.

Newcastle are sixth with a 4-6 record and need to leap-frog the fifth-placed Bruins (4-4) then displace either fourth-placed Sutherland (5-4) or third-placed Manly (7-4) to qualify for the finals at Maitland on August 11-13.

“Our destiny is in our own hands and we want to keep it that way,” Gledson said. “Both teams have to win this one to keep their hopes alive without worrying about other games you have no control over, so it will come down to who wants it the most. It will come down to bringing your best game for the whole game.

“Last time we played them we had to rally from a 21-point deficit. That showed a lot of determination and the desire to win, but this time we want to dominate the game from start to finish.”

Newcastle’s men will be under-manned for their away game against second-placed Bankstown (8-4) at Bankstown at 4pm on Sunday, making an already difficult task even tougher.

Captain Ben Hawkesley and playmaker Michael Wilson will be unavailable because of work commitments, further testing the depth of an already inexperienced squad.

Newcastle have lost seven straight and are 10th with a 2-11 record but coach Darren Nichols is pleased with the team’s overall progress and the spirit his players have shown in recent games.

“They’re the defending champions so it was always going to be a tough road trip … it’s a good opportunity for some of our other players to step up and play,” Nichols said.

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