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2015-16 Season Previews – Week 27

British_Basketball_League_(emblem)THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Friday 18 March 2016
Saturday 19 March 2016
Sunday 20 March 2016
Tuesday 22 March 2016
Wednesday 23 March 2016
Bristol Flyers v Cheshire Phoenix
Where and when:

WISE Basketball Arena, 7.30pm Friday 18 March

Summary:

Bristol Flyers can give their BBL Play-Off push a real boost with victory against Cheshire Phoenix on Friday.

Phoenix currently occupy the eighth and final post-season spot, eight points ahead of Flyers, albeit having played two games more.

But if Andreas Kapoulas’ men were to bounce back from two defeats against Glasgow Rocks and Manchester Giants last weekend, it would not only close the gap, but give them the season series and head-to-head tie-breaker.

Phoenix were edged by Leicester Riders despite a positive performance last time out, and host Sheffield Sharks on Sunday, after this one.

Last time they met:

Cheshire Phoenix 58 Bristol Flyers 72 (BBL Championship, Cheshire Oaks Arena, 13 December 2015)

Form:

Flyers: LLLWLL
Phoenix: LWLWWL

Three Points:

* Flyers’ victory against Phoenix in December was their first in seven meetings between the teams
* Phoenix’s Danny Huffor suffered a facial injury during the defeat against Riders and required stitches
* Phoenix lead the BBL in made three-pointers per-game with 9.08

What they say:

Flyers forward Doug McLaughlin Williams: “Cheshire have a good team. It’s been a while since we played them and they have changed a few players since then.

“We have played pretty good team defence all year, so as long as we stick to our principles we should be okay.

“As with any team, focusing on trying to keep them to one shot, and getting out in transition will help our chances.”

Phoenix guard Danny Huffor: “Bristol are a solid team with a good coach. They lost a couple games [last weekend] but I’m sure they went over what went wrong and will be hungry to play us.

“If we go in there and play smart basketball with very few mistakes and have our defence turn into our offence, it will be a good game. We are taking each game as if it was our last so we will be just as hungry and ready to play.”

Tickets: www.bristolflyers.co.uk

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle v Leicester Riders
Where and when:

Sport Central, 7.30pm Friday 18 March

Summary:

The latest chapter will be added to the tale of Esh Group Eagles Newcastle and Leicester Riders’ rivalry on Friday.

Less than a month after the teams squared off in the BBL Trophy Final, they meet again, with the winner set to take a big step towards the BBL Championship title.

Both teams have lost just two league games all season, and although Riders sit 10 points behind the reigning champions, they have five games in hand in which to make up the deficit.

The teams meet again in the final weekend of the regular season, but a win on Friday would mean Riders claim the season series head-to-head tie-breaker, having triumphed in their previous league game back in January.

Last time they met:

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 77 Leicester Riders 85 (BBL Trophy Final, Emirates Arena, 27 February 2016)

Form:

Eagles: WWLWWW
Riders: WLWWWW

Three Points:

* Riders have won 14 away games in a row, tied for the second-longest away winning streak in BBL history
* These teams have met in seven BBL finals in the last four years
* Drew Lasker did not take part in either of Eagles’ two games last weekend

What they say:

Riders guard Tyler Bernardini: “We all play basketball to be in these games. To be in the games that decide the league, to be in championship games for trophies and have fun. Sometimes people try to avoid it, but I like to try and embrace that.

“I think that is what our group likes about being good, is that we get to play in the games that are important, that mean a lot, when the stakes our high. That’s what our group thrives on.

“It’s two teams that are going to be familiar, and that always makes things fun. When everybody knows each other, it just comes to down to players making plays and that is really fun basketball and because we have faced Newcastle so much, it’s going to have that kind of feel that a series has.”

Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy: “It’s that time of year when everyone has niggles and it’s just about managing our schedule. We will have to see what the physios say when we get back at it this week.

“There will always be some minor adjustments to make but I am sure both teams will be more concentrated on themselves than the opposition at this point in the season. Both teams are pretty deep in every area so we are really just focusing on ourselves.”

Tickets: www.newcastle-eagles.com

Glasgow Rocks v Leeds Force
Where and when:

Emirates Arena, 7.30pm Friday 18 March

Summary:

Matt Newby has set his Leeds Force side the target of five wins from their final seven games if they are to secure a BBL Play-Off spot.

Two of those remaining contests are against Glasgow Rocks, starting with a trip north of the borderon Friday.

Rocks’ four-game winning run came to an end as they suffered a narrow loss to Plymouth Raiders on the second leg of a road back-to-back last Sunday.

Force, meanwhile, gutted out another hard-fought victory against London Lions, to pull within two points of eighth-placed Cheshire Phoenix.

Last time they met:

Leeds Force 79 Glasgow Rocks 77 (BBL Championship, Carnegie Sports Centre, 05 February 2016)

Form:

Rocks: LWWWWL
Force: WLWWLW

Three Points:

* Force’s victory in the previous meeting between these teams was their first in six attempts
* Force guard Marek Klassen and Rocks forward Kieron Achara were named as starters in the latest BBL All-Star Five
* Only Sheffield Sharks average more than Force’s 12.15 offensive rebounds per-game while Rocks average the fewest in the league at 8.27

What they say:

Rocks coach Sterling Davis: “We would have liked to have come out of [last] weekend with two more wins under our belts but the tanks were on empty. Credit to our guys for fighting to the end of the Plymouth game because that could have easily got out of hand early with our start.

“Leeds are not the team they were early on and we were the first to see that in our last meeting.

“Since the arrival of [Marek] Klassen, they have really hit a rhythm that has equated to some good wins for them. We know we have to be ready to play and understand that they will be improving every week.

“Leeds are playing with a chip on their shoulder now and want to continue to prove to themselves and others that they are competitive within the league and will be in the Play-Offs.”

Force coach Matt Newby: “The Emirates is always hard to visit. Glasgow certainly have the personnel to be competitive this season and maybe cause an upset in the Play-Offs, but ultimately we have got to focus on what we want to do and our agenda is to collect five wins out of the remaining games.

“That’s potentially a tough ask but ultimately, if we’ve got Play-Off aspirations, we’ve got to do that. We beat Glasgow at our place, but we’ve got to travel up there twice before the end of the season.

“It will be tough. Kieron [Achara] is finding his form and there seems to be a bit more balance to them at the moment, but ultimately I think we match up really well with them. If we maintain the level of performance that we have done in recent weeks then we should be in good shape.”

Tickets: www.glasgowrocks.co.uk

Worcester Wolves v Plymouth University Raiders
Where and when:

University of Worcester Arena, 7.30pm Friday 18 March

Summary:

Worcester Wolves have six games remaining to hang on to the third seed in the BBL Play-Offs, starting with Friday’s visit of Plymouth Raiders.

Last weekend’s defeat at the hands of leaders Esh Group Eagles Newcastle ended Wolves’ hopes of wrestling away the title, and with Leicester Riders set to push Fab Flournoy’s men all the way, Paul James’ side must consolidate third spot.

Raiders travel to the Midlands off the back of an important win against Glasgow Rocks, which leaves Daryl Corletto’s squad in seventh spot and looking up, rather than over their shoulder.

Raiders face another crucial contest against Bristol Flyers on Sunday.

Last time they met:

Worcester Wolves 91 Plymouth Raiders 101 (BBL Championship, University of Worcester Arena, 22 November 2015)

Form:

Wolves: WLLWWL
Raiders: LWWLWW

Three Points:

* Raiders’ victory against Wolves back in November was their first against them since November 2013
* Raiders’ Daryl Corletto and Cory Dixon are the tied leading scorers in the league, averaging 19.2 points per-game
* Only Esh Group Eagles Newcastle average more points per-game than Wolves’ 83.0

What they say:

Wolves forward Ben Eaves: “Whenever you lose like that [previous meeting with Raiders], when you shouldn’t, it sticks in the back of your mind for the next time you play them. We know what happened last time

“We’ve had the proof of what can happen so in that regard, we can try to avoid that happening again.

“But it has been a while since we played them, both teams have gone through transitions since then so potentially it could be a very different game in the sense of the style that both teams are playing now. Plymouth have made changes, made adjustments.

“We need to focus on what we need to do and when do it, we know we’re going to be very tough to beat.

“We lacked focus last time we played them, we let them create the tempo and they made a ton of shots in the second and got rolling.”

Raiders forward Adrien Sturt: “We are taking steps forward as a team and know that guys can step up to the challenge when needed and we, as a team, just need to keep moving in the right direction and not take any steps back.

“Paul [James] is a great coach and Worcester have been a top team for a few years now. He gets the best out of most of his players so we expect a tough game but it will come down to how we play as a team and when we play for 40 minutes, we play well.”

Tickets: www.worcesterwolves.org

Leicester Riders v London Lions
Where and when:

Leicester Community Sports Arena, 7.30pm Saturday 19 March

Summary:

London Lions will be waiting for Leicester Riders less than 24 hours after their top-of-the-table clash with Esh Group Eagles Newcastle.

Riders travel to the north east on Friday with a chance to seize the initiative in the title race.

Rob Paternostro’s men will then play host to a Lions side hurting after suffering a third straight loss, at the hands of Leeds Force last weekend.

Last time they met:

London Lions 50 Leicester Riders (BBL Trophy First Round, Copper Box Arena, 08 January 2016)

Form:

Riders: WLWWWW
Lions: WLWLLL

Three Points:

* Riders have won the last seven meetings between these teams
* Demond Watt needs 25 more points to reach 1,000 in BBL Championship play
* Lions were restricted to 31% field-goal shooting when these teams last met

What they say:

Riders guard Tyler Bernardini: “It’s part of being in this league and being a professional, that you have to know how to play back-to-backs.

“From a player’s standpoint, we just go out and play. We are going to go and max out on Friday and go and max out on Saturday. From a coaching standpoint, there may be a little more strategy. As a player, if you are on the floor you just give it 110 per cent and worry about everything else the next day.

“London are really talented, they have Demond Watt in the post, who is an incredible scorer, rebounder and a very dangerous player. Nick Lewis and Alex Owumi are really good guards that can score the ball and are really dangerous.

“Sometimes they have some losses that make you pause and think, ‘What is going on?’ But we’re not fooled by that because when you are at the top of the league, people play you differently. You have to understand that.

“We know that on Saturday night we are going to get their best shot. Nobody in London cares that we played the night before against Newcastle and will have got home at 2.30 in the morning. But that’s what we like.

“We are going to bring everything we’ve got, they’re going to bring everything they’ve got and let’s see what happens.”

Lions forward Kai Williams: “Leicester will be ready to play even if they have a game the night before so I don’t think that will really play a factor at all.

“We will need to be consistent with our defensive energy and rotations. They have a lot of weapons and play well together, they are going to make shots and go on runs so we will just have to make each look tough for them and weather the storm at times.”

Tickets: www.leicesterriders.co.uk

Cheshire Phoenix v Sheffield Sharks
Where and when:

Cheshire Oaks Arena, 5.30pm Sunday 20 March

Summary:

Cheshire Phoenix conclude a big weekend at home against Sheffield Sharks on Sunday.

Phoenix go into the weekend holding a BBL Play-Off position and face the chasing Flyers on Fridaybefore hosting fourth-placed Sharks.

Sharks will hope to close the gap to Worcester Wolves in third as they look to build on last weekend’s victory against London Lions before a Yorkshire derby against Leeds Force on Wednesday

Last time they met:

Sheffield Sharks 97 Cheshire Phoenix 86 (BBL Championship, EIS Sheffield, 30 October 2015)

Form:

Phoenix: LWLWWL
Sharks: WLWLLW

Three Points:

* These teams have both won three of their last six meetings
* Antone Robinson scored 30 points last time these teams met
* Only Manchester Giants average fewer defensive rebounds per-game than Phoenix’s 23.69

What they say:

Phoenix guard Danny Huffor: “It’s always good to get the head-to-head on a team but it won’t be easy.

“They are a good team with a good vet player Mike Tuck. We will need to play good defence and take care of the ball and give them one-shot opportunities. If we do those things it will be a good game.”

Sharks guard Colin Sing: “We need to continue to focus, work cohesively and be mentally strong to finish the season out, taking momentum in to the Play-Offs.

“Some elements that make Cheshire such a tough team to play against are that they understand where each other’s offensive strengths are, they play for each other and have multiple players that can hit big shots.”

Plymouth University Raiders v Bristol Flyers
Where and when:

Plymouth Pavilions, 4.00pm Sunday 20 March

Summary:

Plymouth Raiders will surely feel there is no better time to register their first BBL victory against Bristol Flyers.

Andreas Kapoulas’ club have won each meeting with the Plymouth club since joining the top-flight last term, but go into this weekend following back-to-back defeats against Glasgow Rocks and Manchester Giants.

Flyers face Cheshire Phoenix on Friday before travelling to Pavilions.

Daryl Coreltto’s side enter the weekend in seventh spot, eight points ahead of Flyers and take on Worcester Wolves on Friday before this one.

Last time they met:

Bristol Flyers 80 Plymouth Raiders 79 (BBL Championship, WISE Basketball Arena, 11 December 2015)

Form:

Raiders: LWWLWW
Flyers: LLLWLL

Three Points:

* Flyers have won all six BBL meetings between these teams
* Raiders’ Daryl Coreltto leads the league in free throw percentage at 92%
* Cardell McFarland scored 29 points last time these teams met

What they say:

Raider forward Adrien Sturt: “We are focused on Worcester but once that game is over our planning for Bristol will start.

“Obviously the head-to-head is really important, especially going in to Play-Offs with things being so close like they have been this year with some of the teams, but our main focus is just winning the game.”

Flyers forward Doug McLaughlin-Williams: “We talked after the games [against Manchester and Glasgow] and we just missed shots that we normally make, in both games really but more so up in Manchester. Credit to those guys though, they stuck with it and hit some big shots down the stretch.

“In terms of rectifying it. Keep shooting.”

Tickets: www.plymouthraiders.com

London Lions v Surrey Scorchers
Where and when:

Copper Box Arena, 7.30pm Tuesday 22 March

Summary:

Surrey Scorchers will seek a repeat of the fourth-quarter performance of their previous visit to the Copper Box when they face London Lions on Tuesday.

Scorchers overturned a 21-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to emerge victorious against Lions last month, but lost the following six games to lose pace with the Play-Off pack.

Lions have experienced similar inconsistencies, losing three games in a row ahead of their trip to Leicester Riders on Saturday.

Last time they met:

London Lions 82 Surrey Scorchers 90 (BBL Championship, Copper Box Arena, 12 February 2016)

Form:

Lions: WLWLLL
Scorchers: LLLLLL

Three Points:

* KC Ross-Miller scored 26 points last time these teams met
* Only Manchester Giants concede more points per-game than Scorchers’ 87.16
* Ross-Miller leads the BBL in steals with 2.2 per-game

What they say:

Lions forward Kai Williams: “Over the course of the season we have had many ups and downs for various reasons.

“We need to be more consistent on the offensive end of the floor. We have been a fairly strong defensive team this season but we need to put some points up in order to give ourselves a better chance night in and night out.

“As a team we believe we are underachieving and that is motivation enough. It doesn’t matter if we are playing a team we have beat before or lost to, we need to be better and develop some chemistry going into the Play-Offs.

“We have had a good few days of practice so I believe everyone’s mind is in the right place for this last stretch of games!”

Scorchers forward Andreas Schreiber: “We have had trouble finding our team identity; and we are still searching for it. However, if the Scorchers can find two or three committed guys that can be the cornerstones of the team next season, I think we will be able to develop a culture that will win a lot of games.

“We have to have that sense of urgency [from fourth quarter of previous meeting against Lions] the whole time. The game isn’t over until the buzzer goes off. We have to be willing to play for each other for 40 minutes; even if we have slumps. Learning to overcome mistakes will be key.”

Sheffield Sharks v Leeds Force

Where and when:

EIS Sheffield, 7.30pm Wednesday 23 March

Summary:

There will be more than local pride on the line when Sheffield Sharks host Leeds Force on Wednesday.

Sharks are fighting to remain in the top four and push Worcester Wolves for third position.

And Force still harbour hopes of breaking into the BBL Play-Offs for the first time, sitting just two points outside the top eight before Friday’s clash with Glasgow Rocks.

Last time they met:

Sheffield Sharks 92 Leeds Force 59 (BBL Championship, EIS Sheffield, 23 January 2016)

Form:

Sharks: WLWLLW
Force: WLWWLW

Three Points:

* Sharks’ Jerrold Brooks scored 22 points last time these teams met
* Sharks’ Antone Robinson ranks second in the league for rebounds per-game with 10.7
* Force lead the league in fouls per-game with 19.23

What they say:

Sharks guard Colin Sing: “There’s always anticipation before this local derby. Leeds are a tough team and have had big wins during the season so we must continue to focus in order to reproduce a good run of form.”

Tickets: www.sharksbasketball.org

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