NEWCASTLE Hunters survived some nervous moments in the final minutes to outlast Bankstown Bruins 73-67 in the Waratah Basketball League men's championship game on Saturday night.
Big men Chier Maker (28 points, eight rebounds) and Myles Cherry (22 points, 12 rebounds) proved too much for the Bruins to handle in and around the rim, and point guard Jaidyn Goodwin (13 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals) was calm and composed down the stretch.
The Hunters were in control for most of the game, led by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter, and held a comfortable 53-39 advantage heading into the fourth.
But Bankstown hit back through the hot hands of Jack Lopez, whose team-high 27 points included five three-pointers, and Lachlan Anderson (15) to cut the deficit to 70-66 with one minute to go. That was as close as the Bruins came and the Hunters held on for their second win from three starts.
Newcastle coach Rex Nottage would have preferred a less stressful final quarter but was pleased with his team's improvement from their 84-73 loss to Manly seven days earlier.
"The things we set out to get done well, we did those well: our ball reversals, and we didn't over-help on defence," Nottage said.
"Our ball reversals gave us better looks on offence, inside and out, and that was our key focus.
"Bankstown were good enough to make us work hard to the end, they made some big shots, and we ended up having to grind it out. But the pleasing thing was we got it done even after some pressure from them at the end of the game, and we certainly showed signs of improvement in the areas we wanted to improve."
Cherry shot 11 of 16 from the floor (68 per cent) in compiling his double-double and contained Bankstown big man Nathaniel Musters to just 10 points on four-of-eight shooting and five rebounds.
Apart from keeping a lid on Musters, Cherry made several important defensive plays in the final quarter to swing momentum back in Newcastle's favour.
Wings Will Howell and Jacob Foy pulled in nine and seven boards respectively to help the Hunters out-rebound the Bruins 50-38.
After going 0-10 from the field against Manly the previous week, Maker bounced back with 12 of 18 from two-point range against Bankstown, including a vicious one-handed dunk midway through the third quarter.
Newcastle will complete a stretch of three straight home games against Canberra next Saturday night. That will be the second half of a double-header with the Hunters women's team, who will return after a weekend bye.