With Everton Tigers and Newcastle Eagles going head-to-head and Marshall MK Lions hosting Cheshire Jets in a repeat of the BBL Cup Semi Final, one of the BBL Trophy Semi-Finalists will be decided by Friday, whilst the outcome of the Lions-Jets game could go a long way to deciding the other finalist.
The first leg of the Semi Final between the Eagles and Tigers went down to the wire, as Fabulous Flournoy's men came out of their Arena 89-85 winners, thanks to a late three pointer from Charles Smith. It was an emotional game for players and coaches on both sides, as the Tigers team contains former Eagles Trey Moore, who won the Championship and Playoff titles, as well as the MVP award with the Tyneside club, and British forward Olu Babalola. Tigers chief Tony Garbelotto is a former Eagles play caller, and last season saw a fierce title rivalry between the clubs, adding to the drama and atmosphere last Friday. Flournoy however, expects the level of play to be raised once again tomorrow evening.
He commented: 'In the second leg, I would expect both team to raise the bar. In a two legged game the first game is considered the first half. Both teams will make adjustments to improve, and it has a bit of a playoff feel to it.' He added: 'For the fans it was a great game. You have two teams with so much history, even with Everton being in its third season. Two ex-players, an ex- coach, three league MVP players, both teams have yet to hit the heights or the form from a season ago, so the game came down to the final shot. It was great to watch and the fans for both teams were fantastic!'
Garbelotto, who is assistant to Chris Finch in the Team GB set up, faced Andrew Sullivan for the first time as an opposing coach last Friday, as the GB skipper recently returned to the Eagles, where he began his career back in 2004, for his third stint with the club. The Londoner said that the addition of such a high quality player and former league MVP, could well be the x-factor for the Eagles this season: 'We need to do a better job of stopping Charles Smith this week, but if you stop him, there are seven other guys who can step up – they are really deep with the addition of Drew Sullivan and almost scary at times.'
With the Jets having lost out to Sheffield Sharks 89-86 in January's Cup Final, and the Lions being knocked out by them at the Semi Final stage, both clubs will be hungry for another final, when they meet tomorrow night in Milton Keynes. Lions coach, Vince Macaulay said: 'The Jets are a veteran team that can mount a challenge if they put their mind to it; they are very talented with great outside shooters. The Jets were victorious last time and will be looking for the same, from our standpoint we just want to get to winning ways and we'll play the girl guides if it means we can win.' He added: 'It would be huge for us (to reach another final) especially with all the injuries we've got and the way we have been playing of late but apart from that, the boost basketball has received with our move to thecentre:mk would be even greater with a Final.'
Jets' play caller, Paul Smith, remembers fondly the 'buzz' that reaching the BBL Cup Final created around the club, and said that everyone within the Jets organisation would love to experience this again. He added: 'It would be a boost for everyone associated with the club to make another Final, although it would be a greater boost to actually win it this time! The BBL Cup experience and the buzz that was created in and around the club on the day and in the week leading up to the game is still very fresh in our minds. We are all very hungry for it to happen again!'
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