Newcastle Eagles are aiming to avoid a repeat of what happened last time they played in the BBL Championship on the eve of a major final.
Eagles host Bristol Flyers in the league on Friday ahead of Sunday’s BBL Trophy Final against Leicester Riders.
It is the same situation Fab Flournoy’s side faced before January’s BBL Cup Final, and while they lifted the silverware, Eagles were beaten by title rivals Worcester Wolves in the league.
But point guard Drew Lasker insists it was not for a lack of focus, and that the experience should benefit the league leaders this time around.
“It wasn’t a game that we took for granted and looked past, but it is one of this things that we move forward and learn from,” said Lasker.
“It will be great going into this situation with a little bit of experience this time around. We are not just focused on the final, we are focusing on Friday as well.”
He added: “You always want to go into a big game on a high.
“Hopefully we can continue our streak and momentum and carry that into Sunday.”
Andreas Kapoulas’ side were enjoying a four-game winning streak themselves prior to back-to-back defeats against Sheffield Sharks and Leicester Riders.
But despite those two recent reverses, Lasker feels Flyers are an example to potential BBL newcomers.
“The biggest thing that impresses me about them is that they are young, well coached and the biggest thing that I like is that they never stop playing,” he said.
“No matter what the score is, no matter what the situation, both times we have played them we have been up big, but they never stop playing, they keep getting it after and that is testament to them and their coaching staff.
“For any aspiring BBL team, they are definitely a model that you would want to follow.”
Last time they met:
Bristol Flyers 93 Newcastle Eagles 105 (BBL Championship, WISE Basketball Arena, 29 Nov 2014)
What they say:
Flyers forward Doug McLaughin-Williams: “I think we’ve had a pretty successful debut season, but all competitors want to win. Period. So, for me, right now, making the Play-offs is paramount.
“We’ll have to play a close to perfect game, and not ‘beat ourselves’ so to speak with unforced turnovers and breakdowns on defence.
“The good thing about it is, no one expects us to beat them, so there’s no pressure on us, just show up and throw it up.”
Emirates Arena – 3:30pm
Preparation and intensity have been identified as the key factors ahead of Sunday’s BBL Trophy Final between Newcastle Eagles and Leicester Riders.
These two teams have shared 10 of the 13 pieces of BBL silverware on offer over the course of the past three-and-a-half seasons, and this will be their fifth meeting in a final since 2012.
Both teams come into the game in fine form too.
Eagles are riding a 14-game win streak, which stretches back to January’s BBL Cup Final success while Riders have been perfect in their last six, since falling to Newcastle for the second time this season last month.
Riders forward Ant Rowe will be out to complete his personal collection of BBL silverware on Sunday, having won every other prize on offer, while also attempting to prevent Newcastle sweeping all four titles this term.
But he admits it will take something special to stop them.
“They are playing very, very good basketball,” said Rowe.
“You have got to play a near perfect game to beat them. They have been pretty consistent this year and Worcester have been the only team that has been able to D-up on them come the final buzzer.
“It is good that we have a week to prepare and focus on what we need to do. I think that is the key, just having a plan and focusing on executing your plan because you can’t control other aspects, in terms of how they play.”
Rob Paternostro’s men are no strangers to the big occasions either – and Rowe feels there is a defining quality, which marks all of the BBL’s major finals.
“It’s an intensity thing,” he added.
“When you play in a cup final it is just another level up. It has that ‘must-win-game’ feel and you can feel that as a player, the intensity levels are borderline on the maximum.”
Fab Flournoy’s side appear to have been playing at their maximum since the second night of the season, dropping just one game since then.
A high-level performance will be required today, but point guard Drew Lasker agrees with Rowe’s assessment that major finals often take on an atmosphere of their own when compared to regular-season games.
“They are really won with your preparation,” said Lasker.
“You have to make sure that you really prepare and you do all the little things necessary in order to get ready. Experience also goes a long way.
“It is a new setting, in a neutral venue and for new guys to the league, it is different.
“You have got to make sure that you are well prepared and make sure that you prepare properly because most of the time you can’t depend on offence.
“Typically in finals, teams don’t shoot well so you have got to make sure that you go in there ready for a slug fest and you are ready to win with your defence.”
Eagles must also negotiate a Friday night BBL Championship meeting with Bristol Flyers before travelling north of the border, but when they arrive, they will no doubt be ready for the challenge that awaits.
Last time they met:
Leicester Riders 89 Newcastle Eagles 95 (BBL Championship, Sir David Wallace Sports Centre, 14 Feb 2015)