Wagga Heat coach Colin Reed is supremely confident his side can pull off a desperately needed victory over Queanbeyan at Bolton Park Stadium on Saturday.
Wagga dropped out of the top eight after going down to competition leaders Bankstown on the weekend, now sitting one win behind Newcastle but with an extra game in hand.
With Newcastle likely to round out the season with wins over lowly Central Coast and Port Macquarie, coach Reed has declared every remaining game a “must-win”.
Wagga lost to the Yowies by 10 points when the two sides last met in round seven, but the Blaze had embarked on that early season road trip with just seven players.
The Heat have since elevated themselves into playoff contention, while Queanbeyan has fallen to 14th on the ladder.
The Yowies might have a distinctly 90s-themed nickname, but they play a modern brand of basketball, according to Reed.
It’s a side which plays without many traditional big men, instead focusing on spreading the floor and attempting to dart into the paint from the perimeter, before collecting easy baskets around the hoop or dishing to three-point shooters.
“They’re very good at penetrating from the seams and their guards are very strong,” Reed said.
“We just need to make sure we defend those drives to the hoop and we’ve been working on that for the past couple of weeks.
“A lot of teams are concentrating on getting into that danger zone.
“That’s something we really need to take away from them.”
Reed said the lack of big bodies protecting the rim for Queanbeyan meant bruising centre Scott Hare would likely have a field day.
Hare was fresh off an ankle injury when the two sides last met, his body depriving him of the chance to feast on the Yowies’ smaller lineup.
“We want to really utilise our big guy down low,” Reed said.
“We expect him to really enjoy himself down there on Saturday.”
The Heat will head into battle without forward Shanon Klein, who injured his hand against Bansktown last week.
Youngster Bailey Lloyd will also be missing, on tour with the under 18 state team in the US and expected to miss the rest of the season.
Wagga’s clash with Queanbeyan tips off at 6.30pm at Bolton Park Stadium on Saturday.
Wagga then faces in-form Canberra and cellar dwellers Illawarra in a brutal road double to finish the season.