Wagga Heat captain Zac Maloney is hoping to reel in the catch of the year when his side plays host to ladder leaders Sutherland at Bolton Park Sports Stadium on Saturday night.
The Sharks have dominated the Waratah League this season, racking up 12 wins from their 14 games for an average score of 89 points per game, and sit two wins clear of the second-placed Heat.
Meanwhile, Wagga are grinding their way to finals – they boast the competition’s best defence and are currently riding a five-game winning streak dating back to May – but there’s no overlooking the painful memory of Wagga’s round five visit to Sutherland Basketball Stadium.
The Sharks gave the Heat a basketball lesson last time around, dishing out a 31-point thrashing that prompted coach Colin Reed to question the attitude and commitment of his players.
However, Maloney believes the team have come a long way since their heaviest defeat of the year.
The biggest thing for us has been improving our intensity on the court,” Maloney said.
“I think we did a really good job against Canberra in our last game of stepping up defensively and keeping them to a low score.
“Canberra as a strong attacking team and Sutherland are the same, so we need to be able to bring that intensity again on Saturday.”
Restricting the free-scoring Sharks will be key to a home court victory but Maloney is conscious of playing a balanced game.
“We need to be scoring too and playing good basketball at both ends,” he said.
In a boost for the home side, Shaun Carter is set to return to the court after missing the Gunners clash for the birth of his first son, Benjamin.
“It all happened on the Tuesday but we didn’t get out of the hospital until Saturday so obviously missed out on playing in Canberra,” Carter said.
“But I’ve had enough time to settle in and I’m definitely in this weekend.”
Now, the new father is looking to stretch Wagga’s winning streak to six games at the business end of the year.
“We’ve got games against all the top teams to finish off our season but this one is the big one,” Carter said.
The Heat and Sharks tip off at 6pm on July 14.
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