Hunters coach Darren Nichols will challenge his players to cover the likely absence of injured American Austin Thornton when they play Norths Bears at Newcastle Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.

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HUNTERS coach Darren Nichols will challenge his players to cover the likely absence of injured American Austin Thornton when they play Norths Bears at Newcastle Basketball Stadium on Saturday night.
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SETBACK: After an impressive start for the Hunters, Austin Thornton has been sidelined by injury. Picture: Marina Neil

Thornton, who leads the Waratah Basketball League in scoring (29ppg) and rebounding (13.5), is recovering from a foot injury sustained in Newcastle’s 82-67 victory over Bankstown two weeks ago and Nichols is not expecting him to play against the Bears.

Nichols was pleased with the way his players responded after Thornton was restricted to just 21 minutes against the Bruins and contributed a season-low six points and 11 rebounds.

In his absence, fellow American Sharif Watson (24 points, 13 rebounds), guards Jacob Foy (17 points) and Jakob Dorricott (10) and big man Steve Davis (12 points, eight boards) picked up the scoring slack to help the unbeaten Hunters improve their record to a league-leading 4-0.

Nichols expects a much tougher night at the office against Norths (1-2), who are the reigning champions and perennial title contenders.

“We’re happy to have four wins from four games and sitting where we are but we’re not getting carried away,” Nichols said.

“The two losses Norths have had have been against high-calibre teams in Manly and Hills, and they were only by three points both times.

“We always know what to expect when we play Norths, and we know they will be a step up from the teams we’ve played so far.

“To lose a player of Austin’s quality will be tough, but if that’s what we’re dealing with, it will provide an opportunity for the rest of the boys to really step up and pull together.”

Watson has also been receiving treatment for a foot injury this week but is not expected to miss the game, which is scheduled for a 7:15pm tip-off.

Hunters women’s coach Shannon Seebohm expects an equally difficult night at the office against the highly rated Bears.

Norths’ star-studded line-up includes Seebohm’s sister Kate and former Opals sharp-shooter Renae Garlepp (nee Camino).

Newcastle (1-2) registered their first win of the season a fortnight ago, beating Bankstown 63-52 at Broadmeadow. Norths are 2-0 after comfortable victories over Hills (86-37) and Sutherland (79-45).

“Norths are one of the most talented teams put together in recent memory in the Waratah League, so this will be a great challenge for us to prove we can compete with the best of the best,” Seebohm said.

“We will need to make sure we limit their points in the paint and carry over our offensive improvement from last round to give ourselves a chance to pick up our second win of the year.”

The women’s game will start at 5pm.

*n forward Joe Ingles had 11 points and nine assists in Utah’s 117-95 NBA win over the Los Angeles Clippers; in the process becoming the first Jazz player to make 200 three-point attempts in a season.

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