All roads lead to Wembley Arena this Sunday for the BBL Play-off Final so we turned to two of the league’s top coaches for the inside track on finalists Worcester Wolves and Esh Group Eagles Newcastle.
Durham Wildcats and their coach Lee Davie started and finished the season against Eagles, eventually losing out in their maiden Play-off appearance, while Plymouth University Raiders play-caller Jay Marriott masterminded both finalists’ first defeats of the season.
Davie can see similarities in the structure of the Wolves and Eagles rosters and feels Sunday’s final could be decided in the paint.
“The two teams are quite similar in their make-up, long athletic players, who are are very physical defensively, and they both have the ability to explode for big scoring runs,” said Davie.
“Both teams are quite evenly matched position-by-position.
“I think the front line for each team is where the game will be won or lost. Charles Smith, Scott Martin and Darius Defoe versus the Williams brothers [Jamal and Kai], Stefan Djukic, Kalil Irving and Will Creekmore.”
Marriott meanwhile sees the impression of both coaches on their teams as a central theme.
“What can be said that hasn’t already about Coach Flournoy and the success he breeds as a coach?” asked Marriott.
“He finds a way to win year-in and year-out.
“The strength of this team is they have an identity, they all know who they are out there on the floor and they look to execute that plan with pace, power and aggression on both ends of the floor.”
Marriott added: “Coach James has put together a beautiful consistency of both star quality, and top-class role players.
“The big three, Zaire Taylor, Alex Owumi and will Creekmore, are the storied heroes but it is the supporting cast that make this team so strong.
“Each player understands that they are there to fuel and support the trio as best they can.”
T isn’t enough to convince Davie however as, when pushed, he backs his north-east rivals to return with the silverware.
“In my mind, the Eagles are favourites,” decided Davie. “They have overcome key injuries to everyone in their core group to win the league title.
“They’ve been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last two weeks, which is the most important time of the year. “
Eagles certainly have timed their run to perfection, winning 14 of their last 15 games. But Marriott struggles to find an edge for either side after seeing Worcester surge past One Health Sharks Sheffield in their semi-final.
“I am anticipating a great game,” said Marriott.
“I wouldn’t like to pick a winner, betting against Newcastle is always unwise, but Worcester dismissed Sheffield with relative ease and are in the mood to add to this season’s great success.”
It might be impossible to pick between the teams on paper but that is exactly why all eyes will be on the Wembley Arena floor on Sunday, as the teams provide a definitive answer on the court.