Pressure Builds on Western Sydney Teams
The 12th-placed Parramatta Wildcats host the 3rd-placed Maitland Mustangs at 5pm on Saturday night at the Auburn Basketball Centre and the 10th-placed Penrith Panthers hosting the 8th-placed Central Coast Crusaders at 2pm on Sunday afternoon at the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, Cambridge Park.
Sunday’s game will be the second for the Panthers on the weekend, with the local team heading across the Harbour Bridge on Saturday night to play the second-placed Northern Suburbs Bears at 6pm at the Northern Suburbs Indoor Sports Centre (NSISC), Crows Nest.
The Panthers are currently on a four-game losing streak and the results of this weekend's two games could easily see that streak extend to six consecutive losses.
The Bears and Crusaders have both already recorded runaway wins over the Penrith team this season, during that losing streak, and will be hotly favoured to once again knock over the competition’s debutantes.
Sydney Kings NBL development players Tanner Kerry and Tom Wright are the second and fifth-highest point-scorers in the competition this season and their combination with another of the Kings squad in Jarrod Weeks has allowed the Bears to ruthlessly punish most teams this season.
Last weekend's shock loss to the lowly-rated Manly Warringah Sea Eagles provided a jarring speed bump to the Bears but they are expected to recover with style against the Panthers.
Former Panther Ben Knight is the captain/coach of the Bears and he adds size and bulk to Northern Suburbs team, as does new recruit Brad Ryan (formerly Macarthur Heat State League).
The result of Sunday’s game may rest upon the appearance (or non-appearance) of former WCL Player of the Year Stefan Blaszczynski, with suggestions he is only playing home games for the Crusaders this year.
The Crusaders have experienced severe ‘mood swings’ this season and it’s never known just which team will suit up each week.
The team from the Central Coast is truly an enigma, scoring the second-highest tally of points thus far in the season but equally, leaking like a sieve in defence and sitting just above wooden spoon favourites Parramatta - in points conceded this season.
The Panthers are well behind the Crusaders in scoring potency but are much tougher in defence, conceding considerably fewer points per game than their opponents.
Parramatta head coach Merve Tait was confident his mis-firing team could win last weekend against the lowly-rated Sutherland Sharks.
The final result therefore came as a huge shock, especially to Tait, as the Wildcats totally capitulated in the final quarter, allowing the Sharks to surge home to an easy win.
The Wildcats have already lost to the Mustangs very early in the season (in Maitland), failing to stop American import Mitchell Rueter on that occasion.
Rueter has continued in that rich vein of form with the Mustangs and is currently the leading point-scorer in the WCL competition.
The Wildcats are down on strength for this game, with centre Rory Sutton and shooting guard Mark Musgrave both injured, whilst shooting guard Frank Meredith has left the program - due to work commitments.
Compounding that situation, neither of the Wildcats two New Zealand imports have really made a significant impact this season and coach Tait will be asking both players to lift their games against the Mustangs.
Tyrone Davey made a slow start to the season due to injury and is still finding match-fitness, whilst Rangi Kennedy has been playing solidly at times but certainly not consistently - as expected from his status in the team.
Saturday @ 5pm – Auburn Basketball Centre, Church Street, Lidcombe. Parramatta Wildcats vs Maitland Mustangs
Sunday @ 2pm – Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, Herbert Street Cambridge Park. Penrith Panthers vs Central Coast Crusaders
PHOTO: Tanner Kerry