Newcastle Hunters defeat Norths Bears 78-66

Bennie Murray in action last week. Picture Jonathan Carroll THE Newcastle Hunters continued their mid-season revival with a polished 78-66 victory over Waratah Basketball League heavy hitters Norths Bears at Broadmeadow on Saturday night.

Improving to a 6-6 win-loss record, it was Newcastle’s second victory over Norths (9-4) in the space of a fortnight and third win from their past four games after the Hunters hammered Illawarra 93-40 seven days earlier.

The Hunters started strongly against the 2012 WBL champions to lead 40-29 at half-time then resisted several Bears rallies during the third and fourth quarters.

‘‘Our team is finally demonstrating their potential, and last night was a wonderfully balanced team effort,’’ Hunters coach Trevor Gallacher said yesterday.

‘‘Norths were playing under-strength, and we are mindful not to get ahead of ourselves. But we are getting better each week and the players are believing in our system, working together and demonstrating great determination and unselfishness.

‘‘Our next challenge is to build consistency, which is developed at practice. We are more hungry than ever.’’

Bennie Murray led the Hunters with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal but Gallacher said there were substantial efforts across the board, particularly in the paint on defence, where Newcastle had 10 blocked shots.

Big men Jon Howe (13 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) and Steve Davis (nine points, five boards, three blocks) made their presence felt inside and young gun Ryan Beisty was busy at both ends with 11 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Newcastle’s women’s team notched its most impressive victory of the season, stopping previously unbeaten Norths 72-62 to make it a winning double for the Hunters.

Ending their own three-game losing streak, the Hunters improved to 4-5 for the season and ended the Bears’ run of 10 straight victories.

Setting a fine example for the men’s team, Newcastle hit the ground running to lead 27-17 at quarter-time then consolidated that effort by holding Norths to just eight second-quarter points for a 41-25 half-time advantage.

Newcastle’s lead blew out to 23 points with less than four minutes remaining in the third term, then Norths rallied with a 22-7 run to trail 62-54 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hunters held their nerve in the final five minutes.

Veteran floor leader Cheryl Willis tallied 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds in a classic captain’s knock, and was well supported by Susi Walmsley (10 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals) in her first game since returning home from her college stint in Hawaii.

Sophie White (10 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots) and Charlotte Bull (13 rebounds, six points, four assists, three steals) also made valuable contributions.

Former WBL Most Valuable Player Mitch Rueter (29 points, seven rebounds, five assists) was one of five Maitland players to score in double figures as the Mustangs snapped a four-game losing streak with a comprehensive 84-62 victory over Sydney Comets at Maitland Federation Centre on Saturday night.

The win reversed a 91-80 loss to the Comets at Alexandria two weeks earlier and kept the Mustangs in touch with the top six with a 6-7 record.

Sydney beat the Mustangs 79-53 in the women’s game at Maitland.