BBL Weekend Preview

Mersey Tigers v Cheshire Jets

Friday 3 February 2012

Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park (19:30)

Adam BrownNorth-west rivals Mersey Tigers and Cheshire Jets meet at Knowsley on Friday evening in a BBL Championship game which is key to both team’s play-off hopes.

The Tigers go into the game in tenth spot in the Championship table with a 3-12 record while the Jets are one place higher having won three of their 14 games.

It will be the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season, with Tigers leading the series. Home court advantage counted for nothing in the two BBL Trophy group stage fixtures as the road team won on each occasion, but in their first BBL Championship meeting it took overtime to split them before Tigers recorded a 102-97 victory. A win for Tigers on Friday would give them the head-to-head decider if the teams finish level on points at the season’s end.

Tigers’ coach Tony Garbelotto knows exactly what to expect when his side face their nearest rivals: “They are the closest team to us, and both myself and coach [John] Lavery both attend each others games regularly, so I think we know pretty much everything about each other. I know that they will not give up, as was evidenced on Sunday against the Riders.

“Adam Brown [pictured] has hurt us in the games we have played this season and Matt Schneck did not play in the last game.

“We need to continue to get better in all areas, especially cutting our turnovers down. We are still to inconsistent offensively and turnovers have been part of that problem.

The Tigers found the league-leading Newcastle Eagles too strong on Friday as they went down 94-77 at Sport Central, but Garbelotto remained positive about his side’s display: “I felt we played well, especially in the second and third quarters. We stood up to the best team in the country and made sure that they had to play until the last minutes of the game – and not too many teams have gone there and done that.

“No one player stood out for the Eagles, just their incredible chemistry, work ethic and intensity of defence.”

Jets’ coach John Lavery is looking for an improved performance from the last time his side faced the Tigers:

“We didn’t play well last time we played them. We let an 18 point lead slip and lost the game in overtime. We just need to close out games better.

“Tigers have picked up a good win at Glasgow Rocks recently, and have brought in two new guys. David Aliu is key for them, while Matt Otten has been playing well.”

Jets head into the game on the back of a weekend which saw them lose to basement side Durham Wildcats and high-flying Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders, and the Cheshire coach was clearly disappointed with the defeats: “Against Durham we again we let and 18 point lead slip and lost the game. Colin O’Rilley had a solid game for us, but Chris Pearce came off the bench and shot the ball really well and top scored for them.

“Against Riders we were poor for three quarters, turned up in the fourth quarter but it was too late. Colin had another great offensive and defensive game, and Matt Schneck did well, while for Leicester Cameron Rundles ran the show.”


One Health Sharks Sheffield v Newcastle Eagles

Friday 3 February 2012

EIS Sheffield (19:30)

Fab FlournoyBoth One Health Sharks Sheffield and Newcastle Eagles will both be hoping to put one foot in the BBL Trophy final when they meet in the semi-final first leg at the EIS in Sheffield on Friday evening.

The second leg takes place the following Friday (February 10), with the aggregate winner progressing to the two-leg final.

While the Sharks have had an indifferent BBL Championship campaign this season, including three loses against Newcastle, Eagles’ player-coach Fab Flournoy (pictured) respects them and understands the problems his opposite number Atiba Lyons has had to face:

“Sheffield have had the kind of year we had last year. They have struggled with on court and off court setbacks, injuries and visa delays. I know exactly how difficult it is in those circumstances to get everyone on the right page and moving forwards. Now, just as Jimmy Langhurst comes back they lose Nate [Reinking] to a freak injury.

“But they responded really well last week with a win over a good Worcester team and there is no way in the world we can sleep on them. The young guys will now have to step up – particularly Zach Gachette at the guard spot – and Olu Babalola will be playing as hard as ever against us.

“We have played a couple of scrappy games against Sheffield this year as both teams know a lot about each other. Defence will again be critical.”

GB guard Reinking is expected to be out of action for all of February after damaging his knee when team-mate Colin Sing landed on him when Sharks played Eagles a fortnight ago.

With the second leg to come next week, Flournoy admits to being unconcerned about whether his side where home or away in the first game: “We play them over 80 minutes so it really doesn’t matter to me which game comes first.

Eagles go into the game after chalking up their 14th BBL Championship victory of the season with a 94-77 win against Mersey Tigers, and Flournoy was pleased with how his team played: “We started out with fantastic energy against Mersey and Paul [Gause] was outstanding early on. They made a heck of a run at the end of the second quarter but I was happy with they way we kept our poise in the second half. As a player I had a poor game and I was grateful for my team-mates for taking up the slack.

“I like the balance of Mersey’s team particularly with the new point guard Tony has brought in. Myles Hesson and David Aliu were also extremely consistent for them.”

Sharks’ club captain Adrian Anderson knows the task facing his side: “It’s a big weekend for us, and even if we were fully fit Newcastle are a tough team to play. They got the better of us last time we played them, and it was on TV. We didn’t do too well, and I’m expecting a better performance. But it’ll be a tough game, we’ll need tough defence and to move the ball well on offence, and then who know what’ll happen?”

The big question at the moment is how to stop Eagles’ forward Charles Smith who in the last month has collected a BBL Cup winners’ medal, the Cup MVP and the January Molten Player of the month award. Anderson at least has a plan: “My view is that if you’re looking to stop a great offensive player, you’re immediately behind if you let him get the ball. If you can limit his touches and make it hard for him, you stand a chance of limiting him. When he’s got the ball, you’ve got to make sure you are working hard to guard everyone else.”

The Sharks come into the game on the back of a thrilling one point win against high-flying Worcester Wolves, much to the delight of Anderson: “I was really pleased with the win, the guys came out determined to stop the rot. We were a lot of better on defence and moved the ball well on offence. We were really good in the first half, and having Jimmy Langhurst back helped up. We got Justin [Dobbins] back into the game more after his injury, and he’s getting back to full fitness.

“It’s unfortunate to be without Nate, but the guys realised they really needed to step up, and I’m proud of the young guys, Zach Gachette and Colin Sing. They both played well and Zach deserved his MVP award.”

Eagles guard Andrew Bridge has a good idea what to expect from the Sharks: “Sheffield had a good win against Worcester last week, but they’re always dangerous at home.

“We need to take away their ability to hit three pointers in transition, although that part of their game may be affected by Nate being out. They get a lot of high pick and roles with either [Mike] Tuck or [Justin] Dobbins dangerous in those situations, and you also need to keep those two off the offensive boards.


Prestige Homes MK Lions v UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders

Friday 3 February 2012

EIS Sheffield (19:30)

Anthony RoweAs Prestige Homes MK Lions prepare to face UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders in the BBL Trophy semi-final first leg on Friday evening, head coach Mike New is ready for a tough battle:

“Raiders are a team that are big, athletic and deep” he said. They boast last year’s MVP Jeremy Bell and have kept a couple of outstanding players in Anthony Rowe [pictured] and the versatile Lehmon Colbert. They rebound the ball well and are very good in transition.

“They will be looking to bounce back from their Cup final loss by reaching another final. I think that we had a horrid start against Plymouth last time out, and still found ourselves in the game with five minutes to go. We are a better team since we last played them in November, and there is everything to play for this weekend. We will be prepared.”

The Lions have never won the Trophy in their long history, but New is clearly excited about the prospect of ending that drought: “Winning the Trophy is a goal that we set at the beginning of the season and we are desperate to do so. It is always great when you achieve team goals, everyone wins.”

The second leg takes place on Sunday, with the aggregate winner progressing to the two-leg final.

As New says, the sides have already met in BBL Championship action this season with the home-town Raiders winning 92-76, and the West Country side lead the all-time series between the clubs 17-15.

Lions split their two games last weekend, comfortably winning against Durham Wildcats before going down at Guildford Heat on Sunday, and New had mixed emotions about the two games:

“Durham are an organised side and they have played us tough both times out. Mike Capocci and Ralph Bucci are their creators within their system and do a really good job for them. Adrien [Sturt] really stepped his game up against Durham and we needed someone to have a big game with Dan [Northern] resting a minor injury. He has stepped his game up recently and it couldn’t have happened at a better time with our semi-final against Plymouth.

“Guildford were faster to every rebound, loose ball and 50-50 balls. They outplayed us on the day and deserve credit for their recent turn around in form. Coach [Creon] Raftopoulos has hung tough and have his guys playing inspired basketball.”