Rotnei in Sanders’ cross-hairs

BASKETBALL

Championship-winning guard James Harvey is confident his Sydney teammate Jesse Sanders can shut down Wollongong sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke in Friday’s all-NSW battle for the final play-off spot.

Sanders was with the Kings for the first six weeks of the season, before being replaced by former NBA player Sam Young.

But in one of the strangest cases in NBL history, Sanders was re-acquired by the Kings last month after the club axed the inconsistent Charles Carmouche.

Wollongong are a perfect three from three against Sydney this season, but Sanders wasn’t on board for any of those games.

The Kings are counting on the 190cm point guard to silence the mercurial Clarke, who has averaged 27 points against Sydney.

‘‘Clearly Rotnei Clarke’s hurt us this year, but we haven’t had Jesse Sanders in the team when we’ve played Wollongong,’’ Harvey said.

‘‘One of the things Jesse brings is defensive intensity and toughness and he’ll certainly make Rotnei’s life more difficult for him. That’s perhaps an ace up our sleeve that they haven’t yet seen.

‘‘We’re certainly going to have to try and take him off his game. He’s been a great player all year, particularly against us. He’s been the key in them getting three wins.’’

Harvey, who won a title with Perth in 2000, will come off the bench for the Kings.

The 35-year-old guard has hurt the Hawks in the past with his three-point shooting.

‘‘Those small contributions of bench guys can get you over the line, especially on the road,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got guys who have to step up like myself and Cody Ellis in terms of putting points on the board, but also a guy like Kevin White. 

‘‘He’s going to have to give Jesse some breathing space and take a few minutes off him guarding Rotnei, being physical with him and making life difficult.’’

The Kings host Townsville on Saturday night, but they know that game will mean nothing if they lose to Wollongong.

‘‘Who would’ve thought one game between two arch rivals was going to decide which one makes the finals?’’ Harvey said.

‘‘Even though I’m a West Australian, I’m well aware of the rivalry between Wollongong and Sydney and how they think the Kings are the silver-spoon boys.

‘‘I’ve got no doubt this game’s going to come down to a few key moments and which team can handle the pressure the best. Hopefully some veteran leadership or guys who’ve been there before can help get us over the line.

‘‘The league’s that close, that 30 seconds can determine who makes the play-offs or who wins the championship.’’

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