Newcastle Eagles players Joe Chapman and Darius Defoe are both looking forward to the challenge of lifting the BBL Championship play-off crown as they prepare to face Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders in Sunday’s showpiece game at Wembley Arena.
“It’s always a challenge to get to a final, and it’s always exciting to play in one” said Chapman (pictured). “It’s a great experience to play in front of a big crowd as it gives you a sense of encouragement.
“You always want to have the chance to be the last team standing. If we could win it, it would justify our season. We’ve been to one final, but the injury problems really hurt us in the regular season in the Trophy. We’re all healthy at the right time and we want to finish with a win.”
Chapman knows that his team face a tough test against a Riders’ team who have beaten them four times this season:
“We have to match their energy, but it’s the first time we’re playing them at full strength since the Cup final. It’ll be a real battle as they’re well coached and have some really good players. It’s up to us to match their intensity.
“They are one of those teams that have a lot of key guys, they have a European-style team with five or six guys can who can hurt you. It’s hard to focus on one player, as they all do a great job.”
The 2012 Molten Player of the Year was cagey about who he would be guarding in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley on Sunday: “My role has changed this season, and with the injuries we’ve had I’ve ended up guarding a lot of forwards. So it’s just a matter of who Fab [Flournoy] puts me on.”
Chapman did concede that American shooting guard Jay Couisnard has been a thorn in the Eagles’ side this season: “He’s played really well in four meetings, he’ll have a lot of confidence having been their X-factor against us. We have to match that if we’re going to win the game.”
Eagles’ big man Darius Defoe is also excited about Sunday’s game: “Getting to another final after all our injury problems this year is great, and we’ll be trying to finish the season with a win.
“We need to play hard against the Riders, stick to our game and not worry about them.”
Defoe admits that it’s tough to face former Eagle, and this year’s Molten BBL Most Valuable Player, Drew Sullivan: “It’s hard to play against him, he know our plays so it’s difficult, and he’s had a really good year.”