Heroic Hunter steers Maitland to OT victory
THE Maitland Mustangs managed to emerge victorious in a throroughly entertaining clash against the Inner West Bulls in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 East Men’s over the weekend, claiming a six-point triumph.
The contest was extremely tense, as affairs went into overtime at Maitland Federation Centre on Saturday night. The Mustangs stormed home in the final term, outscoring the Bulls 30-13 in that period to send the match to extra time, where they were able to keep their momentum rolling and claim a magnificent 109-103 win.
The triumph sees the Mustangs sit just one win outside the top four, and looking to close in on a finals spot. On the other hand, the Bulls have fallen back to level pegging with Maitland, as the two sides look to keep up the pace with the four sides ahead of them.
One of the biggest factors in securing the win for Maitland was the outstanding individual performance of former Sydney King James Hunter, who put the team on his back at stages of the game. He was the most dominant player on the court, providing a real spark when the Mustangs were on the back foot. Hunter ended up delivering one of the biggest double-doubles of the season with 35 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were game highs.
James Hunter – 35 points, 12 rebounds, two steals
There was no player more productive on the offensive end of the court than Hunter, who nailed so many crucial buckets. In an old-school big man’s performance, he was able to drain 16 of his 26 attempts from the field, with all of his baskets coming from inside the arc. The Bulls’ interior defence had no answer for his innate ability to find the bottom of the net with ease.
He was also able to chime in with some timely buckets when the Mustangs were on the charge late in the final term, including some crucial tip-ins after his teammates could not conjure a basket. Perhaps his most important play came with just over 20 seconds on the clock, as he stole the ball from the Bulls, stormed down the other end and brought Maitland within two points. When the game went into extra time, Hunter again delivered a big bucket, nailing a turn-around jumper and putting his side up by three, a lead they were able to extend and ride home.
His rebounding efforts proved to be vital too, constantly outworking the opposition to grab the loose ball. Remarkably, eight of his boards came on the offensive end of the court, either tipping the ball in or kicking the ball out to his teammates and creating another offensive possession in the halfcourt. There was a lot to like about his game, and if he can produce more performances of this calibre in the future, it will go a long way in Maitland securing a top-four spot.