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British Basketball League (BBL) WEEK 31 Preview

Our weekly look ahead to all the BBL’s upcoming action.

Focus
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.”

Focus
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.”

Games
Friday 15 April 2016
CH 19:30 Leeds Force v Manchester Giants
CH 19:30 Leicester Riders v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle
CH 19:30 Sheffield Sharks v Surrey Scorchers
CH 19:30 Worcester Wolves v Cheshire Phoenix

Saturday 16 April 2016
CH 19:30 Bristol Flyers v London Lions

Sunday 17 April 2016
CH 17:30 Cheshire Phoenix v Esh Group Eagles Newcastle
CH 17:00 Glasgow Rocks v Worcester Wolves
CH 16:00 London Lions v Leicester Riders
CH 18:00 Manchester Giants v Bristol Flyers
CH 16:00 Plymouth University Raiders v Sheffield Sharks
CH 15:00 Surrey Scorchers v Leeds Force

Source: BBL
Image: P.Davies