Both Newcastle Eagles and Cheshire Jets will look to take another step towards the BBL Championship when they meet at Sport Central on Friday evening.
The Eagles go into the game level at the top of the table with Mersey Tigers having won 17 of their 22 games, while Jets are in joint third spot with One Health Sharks Sheffield, also on 17 wins but having played two games more.
It’s a key game for both teams, with the head-to-head series at stake as each team has won at home in the first two games between them this season. Jets won a thriller 76-75 in October, before Eagles recorded a comfortable 100-81 victory in the return five weeks ago.
Despite the obvious importance of the game, and another key match-up against Mersey Tigers on Sunday, Jets coach Paul Smith is taking it one game at a time: “We have a policy of treating every game with the utmost importance” he said.
“We got ourselves in a hole and have tried to get out of it one game at a time. It will be the same approach this weekend.”
Smith knows what to expect when his side travels to the north east: “Trey Moore and Charles Smith are their big scorers but anyone can hurt you on the night. They play great team basketball at both ends of the floor.”
Smith doesn’t believe that the loss in Newcastle last month will have any bearing on Friday’s game: “Both teams were short handed last time we played and they have had a change of personnel so I don’t expect it to bear any relevance on this week’s game.”
Eagles captain Andrew Bridge agrees with Smith: “They’ll be different from last time we played as them as Matt Schneck is back. He was a big part of why they beat us early in the season, and you can’t take too much notice of our win against them when he was missing as they’ll be totally different. We’ll watch some film during the week and we had their game against Guildford scouted on Sunday.
“We’ve also changed from last time we played them as we have Reggie [Jackson] rather than Joe [Chapman] and that will give us a bit more quickness which we need to match up with Jeremy Bell. He’s played very well against us, and we need to limit him.”
Eagles’ player-coach Fab Flournoy is ready for a tough game: “Jets are playing very well right now. They have seamlessly reintegrated Schneck and have picked up where they left off in November.
“We know Bell and [Quemont] Greer will initiate a lot of offence but we also have to be aware of Gareth Murray and Colin O’Reilly on the wings. Last time we played we still had joe and they were missing Schneck so this will be a totally new scenario.”
Flournoy was pleased with Eagles’ 89-77 home win against Worcester Wolves last week: We were satisfied with our game against wolves but know we can play better. Kadiri [Richard] really stepped up rebounding well and changing numerous shots!