Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles will both look to move closer to the BBL Cup final when they meet in the first leg of the semi-final at John Sandford Sports Centre on Saturday evening.
The teams meet in Newcastle for the second leg on Friday December 2, with the winner on aggregate progressing to the final at the NIA on Sunday January 15.
Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro is looking forward to meeting in Eagles in the semi-finals: “We are excited about these games, there is a nice buzz around the club, our players are looking forward to playing and I know our fans will be pumped up from the moment they arrive on Saturday. It will be nice to play an important game at the John Sandford Centre, which has seen some impressive crowds this season
“It will important for us to not waste any of the 80 minutes that will be played in these two basketball games. From start to finish we will have to be ready to go.”
Paternostro believes that Eagles’ experience in big games will make life difficult for his team: “Newcastle is a team with six players that have won multiple trophies in this league and have started off the year with a very good record.
“In my opinion their defence has always been their most effective tool in winning basketball games.”
Eagles’ player-coach Fab Flournoy is ready for a tough game in the midlands: “Riders are based around some excellent rookies that Rob has, yet again, unearthed. Their back court is putting up excellent numbers and by adding the experience of Drew [Sullivan] they have filled probably the only gap they had which was for veteran leadership. Rundles and Hardy have had the headlines but you also cant look past the lesser heralded guys like Barry Lamble, John Griffin and Tom Sherlock for the job they do.”
Flournoy is happy to be away in the first leg, but is unconcerned about having to play an important BBL Championship game the previous day against UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders: “Having the second leg at home in theory should help us albeit it didn’t against Mersey last year! In reality though it’s just 80 minutes of basketball, 40 at our place and 40 at theirs.
“The back to back thing doesn’t really bother me. In a perfect world we would all have the same time to prepare for games against each other but this is the BBL and we are used to it. It’s a Cup semi final with no game for seven days afterwards, with all that motivation I don’t see how tiredness can be an issue.
“That said I would prefer reverting to a central venue for a one game semi final in the cup (or even just to draw the home team out of hat), it is after all meant to be our only pure knockout competition.”
Home court advantage proved key in the meetings between the sides last season with all three games going the way of the hosts as Riders took the series 2-1. However, Eagles have won 11 of the last 13 games between the teams and lead the all-time series 59-33.