NEWCASTLE Hunters coach Rex Nottage hopes a week of back to basics will have his team better prepared for their Waratah Basketball League men's game against Norths at the Bear Cave on Saturday night.
The Hunters were below their best in a 78-73 overtime loss to Hills Hornets in their first home game of the season last Saturday but still had their chances to win, and Nottage said they cannot play at that same level and expect to challenge the Bears.
"Our offensive flow and the completion of our defensive sets hurt us against Hills so we need to sort that out this week or Norths will make us pay," Nottage said.
Norths won their first three games against Hornsby (96-73), Central Coast (84-82) and Bankstown (83-61) before reigning champions Manly pipped them 100-99 with a Lachlan Clark buzzer-beater last Saturday.
The Bears have added former Central Coast junior Jayden Hodgson this season, and the former US college and Sydney Kings development player has averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game in four appearances for Norths.
Another new face on the Bears' roster is journeyman American forward Patrick Sanders McClain, who is averaging 21 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game.
His battle against Newcastle big men Chier Maker, who is averaging 24 points and 16.3 rebounds a game, and Myles Cherry (22.3 points, 15.7 rebounds) should have a major bearing on the outcome.
Apart from trying to bounce back from being stung by the Hornets last Saturday, the Hunters will reflect fondly on the memory of their last trip to the Bear Cave.
Newcastle conjured up one of the greatest comebacks in their history in the corresponding contest last year, rallying from a 67-45 deficit at three-quarter time to beat the Bears 77-75.
"Norths are an experienced group who have only added talent to their roster from last year," Nottage said.
"That being said, our come from behind win last year and a sense of urgency after our result last weekend against Hills should all contribute to this being a cracker of a game on Saturday night."
Newcastle and Norths will both be without their coaches and some players for the women's game at the Bear Cave tonight.
Hunters coach Chloe Mullaney and young centre Amelia Raidaveta will be in Mackay with the NSW team competing at the Australian under-20 championships.
Norths will be without coach Tom Garlepp, leading players Renae Garlepp and Kate Seebohm, and rising star Isabelle Morgan because of coaching or playing commitments at the same event.
Led by co-captain Mikaela Dombkins, who has averaged 23 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game, Newcastle have won their opening two games against Maitland (81-58) and Hills (67-56).
Norths defeated Central Coast (75-55) and Bankstown (71-68) in their first two games but went down 57-51 to Manly last Saturday.
"I'll be away at nationals so our youth league coach Darren Duff will coach the girls this week but the nucleus of our team is still basically intact so we'll have enough experienced players there to give a good account of ourselves, and they know what to expect from Norths," Mullaney said.
"Norths will be without a few of their senior players but they are always hard to beat, especially down there, and we know we're in for a tough night if we don't go in with the right attitude.
"We've focused on our defence at training this week so hopefully we can take that into the game."
Newcastle's next home games are against Manly on May 8.