Friday 22nd January sees a packed night in the BBL, with three crucial Championship games taking place – Everton Tigers take on Cheshire Jets in a local derby, Newcastle Eagles and Worcester Wolves do battle and BBL Cup champions, Sheffield Sharks, turn their focus back to the league, when they welcome Tim Lewis' Essex Pirates.
Sharks player-coach, Atiba Lyons, said he was looking forward to getting his side back on the track of securing the league title, as they currently sit in first place. He said: 'I feel this week's game against Essex is important and we need to regain our focus after the Cup Final. They are a young team that play with a lot of energy and really gave us a tough game down at their place early this season. We ended up winning by twelve but that doesn't tell the whole story of how close it was. Tim Lewis has taken a very young and inexperienced team and made them highly competitive in the BBL. It is important we match their intensity for forty minutes' he added: 'We have had lapses in the past 5 games where we lose our focus for stretches. This is something we have spoken about as a team and we need to correct it this weekend.'
Everton Tigers boss, Tony Garbelotto found it hard to predict how his side would fair against Cheshire: 'It is tough to say' he explained: 'On paper, Cheshire are bigger and have more depth. They are coming off a heart breaking cup final loss and it is tough to say how a team will react. Saying this, it is a local derby and this is game two of the series, so I know that they will put everything into the game.'
He added: 'Paul (Smith) has done a tremendous job with this team this season. The signings of Paul Peterson and Colin O'Reilly have breathed energy into his team. What is most impressive about what Paul has done is how many close games they have won – that is the sign of good coaching.'
Ahead of his side's match up with the Eagles, Paul James said the following: 'I'm very happy with where we are at present. We have won two and lost two. The two games we have lost have been by a total margin of two points and in overtime. I can't ask for much more than that' he concluded: 'The main thing is that we have competed and although we lost those close games, we gave ourselves a chance to win and that's all I can expect my team to do. Some we will win and some we will lose, but it makes for great spectator viewing!'