Chris Bunten is confident Team Northumbria can overcome border raiders Caledonia Pride twice in three days and deliver the perfect early Christmas present to the Sport Central faithful.
A confidence-boosting 79-60 WBBL win against Oaklands Wolves proved to be the perfect preparation for Friday’s live BBC clash against the Scottish franchise.
But Bunten already has one eye on Sunday’s rematch with a place in the 2018 BBL Cup final at stake.
“I can’t speak for the Pride but our focus is making the first final of the season and contesting some silverware,” said TN’s playcaller.
“With that in mind I suspect Friday’s match might see both teams keeping their cards close to their chest and at the same time trying out a few different tactics.
“It’s a match both teams will be desperate to win – especially as it’s being streamed live by the BBC and is part of the build-up to Newcastle Eagles’ biggest match of the season.
“But there’s absolutely no doubt that we want a shot at silverware and a win on Sunday will give us that opportunity.”
TN are steadily climbing the WBBL Championship table with the club’s new signings settling in and latest addition Hannah Shaw offering an exciting alternative.
The GB international completed her move to Tyneside last week and made her debut at the Wolves.
But it was Swedish international Evelyn Ovner who hit the headlines with an eye-catching TN high of 22 points.
And Bunten added: “I love coaching a player like Evelyn. She is so determined and so focused and I think she’ll respond positively to Hannah coming in.
“There’s real competition for places now but the players complement each other really well. I think they can see the potential this team has right now.
“Evelyn has really found her feet in the WBBL and her performance against the Wolves was excellent. She still has things to work on but that’s why I love coaching her – she soaks up everything I tell her.”
TN should be at full strength for the Pride double header with the visitors finding some form in their second season in the WBBL.
Caledonia’s 3-3 league record puts them one place below TN in an increasingly competitive league table and many are predicting this weekend’s clashes will be too close to call.
“I am often guilty of over-thinking things and I know Pride are a very well coached team who could cause us problems,” added Bunten.
“But I’ve got to listen to my players and they insist they can cause more problems at both ends of the court.”
TN take on Pride from 5pm on Friday live on the BBC red button. Sunday’s WBBL Cup rematch tips off at 4pm on Sunday at Sport Central.
Report by Simon Rushworth