The day has finally arrived for the 2011 BBL Play-Offs to swing into action in what could potentially be one of the most open Finals for years, reflecting one of the most fiercely competitive BBL Championship campaigns in history.
Newcastle Eagles are one of the teams vying to land the last piece of silverware on offer this season and they will be desperate to make it to the National Indoor Arena on Saturday 30th April and the top of the podium with nothing shiny to show for their efforts this year.
Standing between them and a place in the semi-finals are Guildford Heat who are a dangerous opponent having recently pushed the Eagles close at Surrey Sports Park and having also beaten BBL Champions Mersey Tigers in recent weeks.
Eagles play-caller Fab Flournoy is just thankful for finally having something close to a healthy team, even if he worries about even thinking about this positive.
“I don’t really want to say that we are healthy because every time I have thought that so far this season, we have sustained another injury!” explained Flournoy.
He added “However I am hopeful everyone will be able to suit up this weekend.”
The Eagles host Guildford Heat tonight at Sport Central with Creon Raftopoulos also focusing on the health of his team ahead of the first big match up with the second leg in Surrey tomorrow night.
He said, “It’s been a long grinding season and we have had our fair share of injuries to deal with. With the schedule the way it’s been, we had to rest guys during the week so they are fresh for the weekend and that helped us make that final push to make the playoffs.”
“I’m happy we go into the play-offs with a fully fit team and we have to give all we got to get to the next round.” continued Raftopoulos.
Mersey Tigers meanwhile head into the post season looking to wrap up a stunning treble although they won’t be where they want to be in terms of location when they follow up tomorrow night’s first-leg clash at Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders on Sunday.
Tigers are back at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester which means they won’t have the chance to continue their great form which has seen them go on a great run at the Echo Arena – a fact not lost on Coach Garbelotto.
“We are always disappointed not to be playing at the Echo Arena. It is truly a great home court for us, as witnessed by our last five games there.”
Wherever the top-seeded Tigers play, they know they face a real tough test in ensuring they are not one of the biggest scalps in recent memory with Riders having already chalked up a victory in recent weeks and that was when the Merseyside club had their influential and now injured captain Drew Sullivan in the team.
One Health Sharks Sheffield are a club that can win a double in the wake of their BBL Cup success earlier this year and that is an additional incentive to despatch an up and down Glasgow Rocks team who travel to Yorkshire tonight hoping they can get a good result for the second leg on Monday.
Finally, UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders are one of the form teams right now after they made a late run to grab fifth spot and that is in stark contrast to Cheshire Jets who have lost their last few games and will be eager to get back to winning ways just when it matters. The first game takes place in Devon at the Pavilions tomorrow night and will be settled 24 hours later at Northgate Arena.