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North west rivals set for play-off crunch

North-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.

North-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 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.”

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