BASKETBALL: Panthers primed for Hunters

Chasing an encore: American import Ben Ellsworth scores against the Hunters in Penrith’s shock win over Newcastle earlier this season. Photo courtesy of Noel Rowsell.The Penrith Panthers senior men’s basketball team have suffered both highs and lows during the 2012 Waratah Championship League (WCL) competition but this Saturday night’s clash with the Newcastle Hunters (in Newcastle) will be the team’s final opportunity to leave their fans with a lasting memory – at least until the start of the 2013 season.
Nanjing Night Net

Penrith’s late-season form resurgence has almost totally erased memories of the team’s horror thirteen-game losing streak but that run of poor results did effectively halt the Panthers push towards this year’s playoff series.

In contrast, the Hunters have arguably been the most impressive team this season and as a result, have taken over the mantle of premiership favourites, displacing the Northern Suburbs Bears.

Amazingly, the Hunters last bad game was against the Panthers back on July 15 at the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, when the Panthers broke their own extensive losing streak and grabbed a shock 76-69 win.

Hunters head coach Darren Nicholls also received his marching orders for misbehaving on the sidelines during that game and was subsequently suspended, although he will be back in charge for the Panthers game and undoubtedly looking for redemption.

American import Deion Sims also missed the Panthers game through injury but having resumed last weekend, in the Hunters big win over the Bankstown Bruins, the talented American will also be looking to play a major role against the Panthers on Saturday night.

Penrith will at least be in top form, having thumped the Sutherland Sharks 86-65 last Sunday in Sutherland.

The Panthers led 26-20 at the first break and 41-36 at half time, then shifted up a gear to lead 67-55 at the final break in play and eventually finish with an impressive 21-point win.

Penrith head coach Jeff Cooper said ‘‘it was another good team effort (against Sutherland)’’.

‘‘We had Steve (Gavrilovic) back today but Bruce (Wells) was away, due to the birth of his baby girl’’.

‘‘We now have a really tough game this weekend against Newcastle and I’m hoping we finish with a big game for the last round of the season,’’ said Cooper.

‘‘Newcastle should have their coach back for this game (he was suspended in the Hunters recent loss against the Panthers) and I’m sure they will be keen to get back at us for their loss to us in that game.’’

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