Olu Babalola believes success in the BBL Cup semi-final against Newcastle Eagles could turn Sheffield Sharks’ season around.
Sharks have endured a stuttering start to the campaign and slipped to a third straight loss on Friday as they were beaten by Chavis Holmes’s late heroics for Worcester Wolves.
But attention turns to the Cup on Friday when the Sheffield club host Newcastle in the first leg of their final four clash, with more than just a place in Birmingham at stake.
“Newcastle game is by far the biggest game we’ll have had up to this point,” said Babalola.
“It’s not only a huge test, but a great opportunity to turn things around for us.
“We all play for silverware. Winning the league, while it isn’t impossible, does seem like a long shot from here.
“But being able to win some silverware will make the season successful regardless.”
Sharks were beaten at this stage of last season’s competition by the same opposition, as they were denied silverware on three fronts, while Eagles have lost out in each of the past two Cup finals.
Eagles and Sharks have already met once this term too, with the reigning champions prevailing 95-75 earlier this month.
But Babalola is of the opinion that his team must embrace the challenge in front of them, if they are to change the tone of this campaign.
Babalola added: “We have to play hard and smart for 80 minutes.
“We have to believe and take on the challenge as one that has come just at the right time.
“If we can get through this semi-final victorious, that will be all the confidence the team will need to see us through to the end of the season.”
Last time they met:
Sheffield Sharks 75 Newcastle Eagles 95 (BBL Championships, EIS Sheffield, 07/11/2014)
What they say:
Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy: “The venue for the game really doesn’t matter to us. We have won playing at home first and we have won playing away first. It’s the mental discipline of realising that you are in a two-leg game that is critical.
“Sheffield have had some tough breaks in close games. They are a lot better than their record suggests. We played them five times last year and already twice this year so we know each other quite well.”