North East Connected

2015-16 Season Previews – Week 31

THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Friday 15 April 2016
Saturday 16 April 2016
Sunday 17 April 2016
Where and when:

University of Worcester Arena, 7,30pm Friday 15 April

Summary:

Worcester Wolves could yet reclaim third spot as they enter the final week of the regular season.

Paul James’ side host Cheshire Phoenix on Friday, before travelling to Glasgow Rocks on Sunday, knowing they can secure the third seed if they better Sheffield Sharks’ two weekend results.

Wolves go into the game off the back of an important bounce back win against Bristol Flyers last time out, but have struggled against the Cheshire club in recent meetings.

Last time they met:

Cheshire Phoenix 94 Worcester Wolves 84 (BBL Championship, Cheshire Oaks Arena, 10 January 2016)

Form:

Wolves: WLWLLW
Phoenix: LLWWLW

Three Points:

* Phoenix have won the last four meetings between these teams
* Phoenix’s Kinu Rochford exploded for 31 points and 14 rebounds when these teams met in January
* Wolves’ Perris Blackwell ranks sixth in the league for both points per-game (17.8) and rebounds per-game (9.0)

What they say:

Wolves guard Disraeli Lufadeju: “We are more concerned about getting into a good rhythm going in to the Play-Offs.

“We have lost two games back-to-back, which is unusual for us so we want to bounce back in these final two games and show we are ready for the Play-Offs.

“We don’t really match-up too well with Cheshire. They have got an aggressive big man and Akeem Ellis, who is really good on the perimeter. But we have been working hard on containing them and I am 100% backing us to win this game.”

Phoenix coach John Lavery: “It’s in our hands. If it was out of our hands, we would be looking at different permutations, but there are two games left and if we pick up one win then we are in the Play-Offs.

“There could be a possibility where we don’t pick up another win and other teams lose and we still make the Play-Offs.

“The biggest part of it for us, is that it’s in our hands. We are not relying on somebody else to beat someone.

“Every team is still fighting for something. We’ve beaten them twice this year, home and away, so they are going to want to put the record straight and pick up a win against us.

“Our personnel has changed a little since the last time we played them and theirs has as well. Last time we played them, they didn’t have Ben Eaves or Jordan Aaron, so they have got a little bit of a different look and so have we, as we didn’t have Quincy Taylor.”

Tickets: www.worcesterwolves.org

Leeds Force v Manchester Giants
Where and when:

Carnegie Sports Centre, 7.30pm Friday 15 April

Summary:

A shock win against Leicester Riders last time out has breathed fresh life into Leeds Force’s BBL Play-Off hopes.

Hosting a side they had not beaten in six attempts, and who had won 17 consecutive away games, the odds were stacked against Matt Newby’s men.

But an incredible close, with Rob Marsden scoring the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds remaining, saw the Yorkshire club record one of the results of the campaign.

It means Force enter the final week of the regular season having to win one more game than Plymouth Raiders in their final two.

But, if both teams win both of their remaining games, Cheshire Phoenix could miss out if they lose both of theirs.

Last time they met:

Leeds Force 84 Manchester Giants 70 (BBL Championship, Carnegie Sports Centre, 26 February 2016)

Form:

Force: WLLLWW
Giants: LLWLLL

Three Points:

* Former Giants forward Rob Marsden scored 22 points for Force last time these teams met
* Force have won the last three meetings between these clubs
* Giants’ Stef Gill needs one more steal to reach 250 in the BBL Championship

What they say:

Force guard Marek Klassen: “If we want to make the Play-Offs then every game has to be treated as a must-win.

“I think we’ll prepare with the same attitude we did with Leicester and apply it first to Manchester than Surrey. Both are winnable games, but definitely ones we won’t be taking lightly.”

Tickets: www.leedsforce.co.uk

Sheffield Sharks v Surrey Scorchers

Where and when:

EIS Sheffield, 7.30pm Friday 15 April

Summary:

Closing the regular season with two wins and building momentum heading into the Play-Offs is the aim for Sheffield Sharks, rather than locking up third spot.

Atiba Lyons’ side will secure the third seed if they match the results of Worcester Wolves during the final weekend.

But with one of the League’s more experienced line-ups, Sharks know what it takes to build a deep run into the post-season, and that will be the focus going into Saturday’s home clash with Surrey Scorchers and travelling to Plymouth Raiders on Sunday.

Last time they met:

Surrey Scorchers 69 Sheffield Sharks 78 (BBL Championship, Surrey Sports Park, 21 February 2016)

Form:

Sharks: LWWWLW
Scorchers: LLWLLL

Three Points:

* Sharks have won the last eight meetings between these teams
* Sharks’ guard Jerrold Brooks missed last weekend’s defeat against Leicester Riders
* Scorchers are conceding 88.35 points per-game, the most in the league

What they say:

Sharks forward Mike Tuck: “In my mind it’s not a huge issue where we finish, third place obviously looks better on paper and for us mentally it will help. But in terms of who we see first round of the Play-Offs it’s not a big issue. They are all good teams but teams we know we can beat them. The most important thing is finishing the season strong with two wins in this last weekend, to bring some momentum into Play-Offs.

“Surrey are a team whose record does not do them justice in terms of how good a team they are. I think that they really evolved and got better throughout the season.

“They have some young athletic guys and some seasoned vets in Tayo [Ogedengbe] and [Andreas] Schreiber.

“This is a game where we have to focus because they are out of the Play-Offs
they can be dangerous in the fact that they play like they have nothing to
lose. We need to do a solid job on defence and be consistent on offence.”

Scorchers forward Andreas Schreiber: “Sheffield have one of the quickest point guards in the league; as well as two powerful power forwards, with Mike Tuck leading the way.

“We will have to make a conscious effort of limiting their touches; and keeping Sheffield from scoring easy baskets.”

Tickets: www.sharksbasketball.org

Leicester Riders v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle

Where and when:

Leicester Community Sports Arena, 7.30pm Friday 15 April

Summary:

This season’s two-horse race for the BBL Championship reaches its final hurdle this weekend.

Leicester Riders appeared set to canter to a first league title since 2013, having beaten reigning champions Esh Group Eagles Newcastle in both of their BBL Championship meetings.

But a surprise defeat at the hands of Play-Off-chasing Leeds Force last time out has set up a potential title decider.

With Riders holding the season head-to-head tie-breaker, Eagles must beat Rob Paternostro’s men and follow that up with success at Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday.

Lose to Eagles and Riders must hope Fab Flournoy’s men slip-up while beating London Lions on Sunday.

Last time they met:

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle Leicester Riders 80 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 18 March 2016)

Form:

Riders: WWWWLW
Eagles: WLWWWW

Three Points:

* Riders have won three of the four meetings between these teams this season
* This will be only the third time in BBL history that two teams with a win percentage above 90% have met – the other two being their previous meetings this term
* Riders’ TrayVonn Wright recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds when these teams met last month

What they say:

Riders guard Tyler Bernardini: “For me, I’m really excited. Any time you get another really good team like Newcastle, Sheffield, Worcester, I’m excited to play. It’s fun to go out there and compete with the best, so it’s going to be exciting game against Newcastle.

“I know our fans are really excited about it and we’re going to have an incredible atmosphere. It’s to decide the league, so how can you ask for much more? As a competitor these games are what you want.”

Eagles guard Drew Lasker: “If they win it’s theirs, if we win, we’re one game away. It really is winner takes all. For us, we’ve been in this situation many a time so it’s not a position we don’t want to embrace. It’s basically a Cup Final.

“As a group, we feel confident. We know that we can beat Leicester.

“All four games we have played against Leicester [this season], we just haven’t played well, especially offensively.

“This time around we’re back clicking again as a unit, offensively, where we have got six or seven guys scoring in double figures. Starting at the Cup Final, we just weren’t playing consistently to our standard.

“Last time we played Leicester we had a 10-point lead, but it could have easily been 20, 25 but we just couldn’t make any shots and they ended up punishing us.

“I would say we almost play a little better on the road. It’s everybody against you, you’re a little more focused, there are no distractions. We’ve played pretty well on the road all season, apart from the Worcester game. But this is one game, anything can happen.”

Tickets: www.leicesterriders.co.uk

Bristol Flyers v London Lions
Where and when:

WISE Basketball Arena, 7.30pm Saturday 16 April

Summary:

Bristol Flyers enter the final weekend of the regular season still needing one win to end the season on a positive footing and ensure they do not slip to 11th position.

Flyers’ faint hopes of reaching the BBL Play-Offs ended last weekend, but with a home game against London Lions and a trip to Manchester Giants to come, coach Andreas Kapoulas is keen to maintain the intensity.

Lions could still finish anywhere between eighth and sixth so will not be short of motivation themselves.

Last time they met:

Bristol Flyers 57 London Lions 84 (BBL Championship, WISE Basketball Arena, 20 November 2015)

Form:

Flyers: LLLLLW
Lions: WWLLWL

Three Points:

* Lions have won five of the six BBL meetings between these teams
* Six Lions players scored in double figures when these teams met in November
* Flyers’ Greg Streete was named as a starter in the latest BBL All-Star Five

What they say:

Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas: “All season we have competed in all our games and that was again evident last weekend. It was great to see our team bouncing back from the narrow home loss to Worcester and responding with a big win the next day over South West rivals Plymouth, a team performance that I can only describe as Flyers basketball at its best.

“We want to finish the season on a high and entering this home game against Lions and the away game against Manchester and we will try to do exactly that.

“London have a number of guys that can step up and make plays and that was evident with their win over Worcester last weekend. They will be looking to finish the regular season strong and they will feel confident going into the Play-Offs. They are a team that can go far in the Play-Offs if things go their way.”

Lions forward Joe Ikhinmwin: It’s very important to end the season on a high. It can make a big difference going into the post season, our goal is to win both games this weekend and keep that going into the Play-Offs.

“Bristol are a well coached group of guys who run a good system. They have the ability to beat anyone on their day. We intend to dictate the momentum from start to finish.”

Tickets: www.bristolflyers.co.uk

Glasgow Rocks v Worcester Wolves

Where and when:

Emirates Arena, 5.00pm Sunday 17 April

Summary:

Worcester Wolves close their BBL Championship campaign at the scene of their first major silverware success.

Wolves lifted the BBL Trophy at Emirates Arena in 2014 before adding the Play-Off title two months later.

Paul James’ side could aid their hopes of a second post-season crown if they better Sheffield Sharks’ final weekend results to secure the third seed.

Rocks are locked in to the fifth seed so, if they can prevent Wolves climbing to third, would meet them in the Play-Off Quarter-Finals.

Last time they met:

Worcester Wolves 85 Glasgow Rocks 66 (BBL Trophy Quarter-Finals, University of Worcester Arena, 31 January 2016)

Form:

Rocks: LWWWLL
Wolves: WLWLLW

Three Points:

* Wolves have won the last four meetings between these teams
* Wolves’ Pavol Losonsky poured in 26 points and collected 10 rebounds in these teams’ last meeting
* Rocks lead the league in three-point shooting percentage at 35.71%

What they say:

Wolves guard Disraeli Lufadeju: “We need to narrow down on the little mistakes we are making.

“We know we are definitely a top-three team, but it is just those little things that we need to iron out and the good thing is we have time to do that before the Play-Offs.

“We haven’t won anything yet. We are one of the elite teams in the league and the Play-Offs are the opportune moment to prove that to the league.”

Tickets: www.glasgowrocks.co.uk

Plymouth University Raiders v Sheffield Sharks

Where and when:

Plymouth Pavilions, 4.00pm Sunday 17 April

Summary:

It may be the final game of the regular season for Plymouth Raiders and Sheffield Sharks, but there is still work to do for both clubs.

Sharks, after facing Surrey Scorchers on Friday, must ensure they match Worcester Wolves’ weekend results to cling on to the third seed in the Play-Offs.

Raiders, meanwhile, having travelled to Glasgow Rocks on Wednesday, still have to make sure of their post-season spot.

Last time they met:

Plymouth Raiders 82 Sheffield Sharks 77 (BBL Championship, Plymouth Pavilions, 04 March 2016)

Form:

Raiders: WWLWLL
Sharks: LWWWLW

Three Points:

* Sharks have won three of the last five meetings between these teams
* Raiders’ Cory Dixon went for 26 points and 12 boards when these teams met last month
* The top three individual scorers in the league – Daryl Corletto, Jerrold Brooks and Cory Dixon – will be on show in this game

What they say:

Raiders player-coach Daryl Corletto: “Sheffield are a team that play some great team basketball.

“They are very well coached and have a few standout players in [Mike] Tuck, [Jerrold] Brooks and [Antone] Robinson but they also have a good core group of players that play their role on the team very well.

“The Sharks are a very physical team that if you don’t match their energy and effort they will beat you easily. They live off energy plays and knocking down big shots.

“As for us, dependant on our result in Glasgow on Wednesday this could be our deciding game if we make Play-Offs or not, hopefully that is the case and we come out playing with a lot more energy and effort then we did last week again Bristol.”

Sharks forward Mike Tuck: “Plymouth are another team that, I think, is better than their record shows.

“They are in that tough position right now of having to fight for a spot in the
Play-Offs. We, as a team, need to be ready for this and make their intensity
and physicality.”

Tickets: www.plymouthraiders.com

Surrey Scorchers v Leeds Force

Where and when:

Surrey Sports Park, 3.00pm Sunday 17 April

Summary:

Breaking into the BBL Play-Offs is the focus for Leeds Force, but Surrey Scorchers enter the final weekend of the regular season with a goal of their own.

The teams meet on Sunday with Scorchers aiming to avoid finishing at the bottom of the league, and possibly even climb to tenth, if other results fall their way.

Force, meanwhile, face Manchester Giants on Friday, ahead of this one and enter their final two games knowing they must win one more game than Plymouth Raiders.

But, if both teams win both of their remaining games, Cheshire Phoenix could yet still miss out with two losses.

Last time they met:

Leeds Force 73 Surrey Scorchers 63 (BBL Championship, Carnegie Sports Centre, 13 November 2015)

Form:

Scorchers: LLWLLL
Force: WLLLWW

Three Points:

* Force have won the last three meetings between these teams
* Force’s Rob Marsden went for 21 points and eight rebounds when these teams last met
* Force’s Marek Klassen and Scorchers’ KC Ross-Miller rank first and third in the league respectively for steals per-game, with 2.2 and 2.0

What they say:

Scorchers forward Andreas Schreiber: “We will see this weekend as our own personal final, to keep ourselves motivated. We want to play for our fans, our friends, and our family. This season has been a learning experience, but I am really thankful that our fans have had our backs every step of the way. We look to still make a mark on this season, and to go into the offseason on a high note.

“Leeds will be extremely motivated to play for a spot in Play-Offs. But this is basketball, and nothing can be taken for granted. It will be a very exciting game, as this will conclude our own season. So we still have a lot to play for.”

Force guard Marek Klassen: “We all believe and know we have the ability to be a Play-Off team. But we will just prepare and try and do our part.

“As far as the pressure goes if you don’t want pressure at this time of the year you don’t deserve to be playing.

“All we can hope to do is make some noise with the team we have now.”

Tickets: www.surreyscorchers.co.uk

Manchester Giants v Bristol Flyers

Where and when:

Lucozade Soccerdome, 6.00pm Sunday 17 April

Summary:

Manchester Giants and Bristol Flyers will battle to close a tough campaign with a win on Sunday.

Both teams have flirted with the BBL Play-Offs at points throughout the season, with Flyers’ hopes only coming to an end last week.

But finishing strongly and learning from this season will be at the forefront of their minds heading into this game.

Flyers host London Lions on Friday, before this game, when Giants visit Leeds Force.

Last time they met:

Manchester Giants 64 Bristol Flyers 62 (BBL Championship, Lucozade Soccerdome, 13 March 2016)

Form:

Giants: LLWLLL
Flyers: LLLLLW

Three Points:

* Giants have won three of the last five meetings between these teams
* Giants player-coach Yorick Williams enters the final weekend of the season needing nine more made three-pointers to reach 1,000 in the BBL Championship
* Giants (21.32) and Flyers (17.61) are the league’s bottom two teams in field goals per-game

What they say:

Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas: “Unfortunately our second season in the BBL will not give us the joy of a Play-Off appearance. In fact this will be the first time in our history that we will be out of the Play-Offs, something that has never happened in any level that we have played for in my 12 years.

“This definitely hurts us all, a tough end to the season considering there have been 11 games with very narrow single-digit margins that have not gone our way and even if half of those games have had a positive outcome for us we will be due a top-eight finish.

“However this is not about looking back, it’s about looking forward and learning from this process. We want to finish the season with a successful weekend and winning back-to-back games will be a good feeling.”

Tickets: www.manchestergiants.com

London Lions v Leicester Riders

Where and when:

Copper Box, 4.00pm Sunday 17 April

Summary:

Leicester Riders close an incredible BBL Championship campaign at London Lions on Sunday.

Riders could arrive in the capital having secured the title with victory against Esh Group Eagles Newcastle.

Even if Rob Paternostro’s men lose out in that shoot-out, there would still be slim hope of claiming the crown, as Eagles must beat Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday.

Lions’ Play-Off seeding could still be decided too, not to mention the psychological implications of this result, with a good chance these teams could meet in the post-season.

Last time they met:

Leicester Riders 80 London Lions 65 (BBL Championship, Leicester Community Sports Arena, 06 April 2016)

Form:

Lions: WWLLWL
Riders: WWWWLW

Three Points:

* Riders have won the last nine meetings between these teams
* Riders’ Tyler Bernardini went for 23 points and eight rebounds when these teams met last month
* Lions lead the league in offensive rebounds per-game (12.23) while only Glasgow Rocks average fewer than Riders’ 9.45

What they say:

Lions forward Joe Ikhinmwin: “Our goal is 110% to win the game on Sunday but I think the Play-Offs is a whole different ball game. We have seen eight seeds beat teams they couldn’t touch in the regular season and all other crazy stuff that’s what the Play-Offs bring out in teams so besides seeding I don’t think this game plays a large psychological significance.”

Riders guard Tyler Bernardini: “We’ve got to be really focused and prepared for this one. Win or lose Friday there’s going to some kind of finality to the season and whatever the result we have to make sure we get over that game as soon as possible and get ready for London.

“They are a talented team. They are going to have Jamal Williams back and they are going to want to finish on a high going into the Play-Offs. We’ll have to go in there and match their intensity as it’s important for us to finish the strong and only have one loss away [from home].”

Tickets: www.londonlionsbasketball.com

Cheshire Phoenix v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle

Where and when:
Cheshire Oaks Arena, 5.30pm Sunday 17 April
Summary:
Cheshire Phoenix and Esh Group Eagles Newcastle meet for the sixth time this season on Sunday, with this one possibly the most important for both teams.
Eagles visit Leicester Riders on Friday, knowing they must win their final two games to retain the BBL Championship title.
Phoenix, meanwhile, go into the weekend still needing to make sure of their place in the BBL Play-Offs, although their destiny is in their own hands with a trip to Worcester Wolves on Friday, ahead of this one.
Last time they met:
Cheshire Phoenix 87 Esh Group Eagles 97 (BBL Trophy Quarter-Finals, Cheshire Oaks Arena, 24 January 2016)
Form:
Phoenix: LLWWLW
Eagles: WLWWWW
Three Points:
  • Eagles have won the last five meetings between these teams
  • These teams met during the final weekend of the previous regular season, Phoenix prevailing 101-78
  • Eagles (92.52) and Phoenix (82.74) rank first and second in the league respectively in terms of team scoring per-game
What they say:
Phoenix coach John Lavery: “It’s going to be a funny weekend for those guys. They are either going to come to our place after losing the title on Friday night or ready to take the title. There are two different games you have got to look at.
“We are just going to focus on what we have to do. If we pick up one win out of the two, then we make the Play-Offs. If things don’t go to plan on Friday night [against Worcester] then we are going to put everything on the line on Sunday.
“Eagles usually have one or a couple of high-scoring quarters and that’s just down to them being unselfish, their teamwork on the offensive end, getting guys open looks and getting guys the right look at the right time.
“We can’t really focus on any individual. On any given night any one of those guys can put 20 on you, so we just have to take care of what we need to do.
“There’s a lot on the line for both teams so anything can happen on the night.”
Eagles guard Drew Lasker: “They have a really short rotation so you think you are going to wear them out, but those five or six guys just play hard for 40 minutes.
“When you don’t have as much depth, it’s kind of easier offensively because you know if you’re shooting badly you are not going to get subbed out and that gives you a lot more freedom.
“They are going to be fighting for Play-Off positioning and gearing up for the Play-Offs. It’s going to be a lot to play for.”
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