Basketball: Newcastle Hunters products Katie Ebzery and Suzy Batkovic prepare for WNBL finals run

FRIDAY won’t be the first time Katie Ebzery has faced off with fellow Newcastle Hunters product Suzy Batkovic in a crunch Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) game.

But the 27-year-old Sydney Flames skipper says she’ll be looking forward to teaming up with the 37-year-old Townsville Flames veteran as part of Australia’s Commonwealth Games squad in 2018. 

The pair will combine forces in green and gold in the new year after playing each other in a vital last round WNBL encounter.

LEADER: Newcastle Hunters product Katie Ebzery on the charge for the Sydney Flames last month. Picture: Jamile Toderas

LEADER: Newcastle Hunters product Katie Ebzery on the charge for the Sydney Flames last month. Picture: Jamile Toderas

Regardless of upcoming results they will again go head-to-head in next month’s semi-finals but home-court advantage in the best-of-three series remains up for grabs.    

“It’s just come down to games at the end of the [WNBL] season determining who makes the finals or who gets home-court advantage,” Ebzery told the Newcastle Herald.

“It’s happened a few times over the last few years, there’s been some big games between us.

“But she’s back in the Opals squad so it will be nice to be back on court playing with her and not against her.”

TOUGH: Newcastle Hunters junior Suzy Batkovic defends for the Townsville Fire last week. Picture: Jamila Toderas

TOUGH: Newcastle Hunters junior Suzy Batkovic defends for the Townsville Fire last week. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Rio Olympian Ebzery and a recalled Batkovic, who missed last year’s Games, will head to Italy together in February as part of a 21-player national squad ahead of the Commonwealth campaign on the Gold Coast in April (4-15). 

Both are hoping to make the final cut and shoot for gold on home courts, but in the meantime they will focus on club commitments and the domestic title on offer.

It’s a crown Batkovic has claimed four times, including two of the last three, while the same honour has managed to elude Ebzery.

Sydney are the defending champions but Ebzery didn’t play with them last season, instead lining-up for Russian outfit Dynamo Moscow.

“I haven’t been lucky enough to win a [WNBL] championship,” she said.

“That’s why it was pretty funny when I went away for one year they did win it.

“My timing was a bit out, but hopefully I’ve still got a few more years to try and get one.

“It’s nice to be at the pointy end of this season and we’ve certainly put the work in and going back-to-back is the goal.” 

Third-placed Sydney, which also includes Hunters trio Cassidy McLean, Lara McSpadden and Susannah Walmsley, are home to second-placed Townsville at Brydens Stadium on Friday evening (6pm).

Both teams back up on New Year’s Eve against leaders Perth and last-placed Bendigo respectively. 

The semi-final series featuring the Flames and the Fire takes place from January 4 to 8.

The 2018 decider tips off January 13.