GEORDIE coach Gary Stronach believes he will be handing the BBL Trophy to his hometown club Newcastle Eagles on Sunday. Stronach returned to his native North East last year to lead Plymouth Raiders to their first piece of BBL silverware by beating hot favourites Newcastle on their home court.
When Plymouth Pavilions was announced as the venue for this years showpiece final, many thought it might give the Eagles a chance to extract revenge. But instead they will face Guildford Heat as Stronach and his team prepare to hand over their prized possession.
‘It is going to be such a great game,’ he said. ‘I prepared a preview for the match programme and I think I just had Guildford by a few points scoring wise in the head-to-head analysis, but I now actually think that Newcastle will just shade it.’
‘It would be a shame if the game was determined by injuries as I know Fab (Flournoy) has a few at the moment with Hyatt, Smith and Leven, but hopefully they will all make it. The key to this game is how Newcastle control the guards and I think they have to lock down the likes of EJ Harrison and James Jones, who has been getting some real rave reviews for his performances of late.’
‘They will know all about their former player Tony Dorsey inside who forms a great duo with Mike Martin. And it will be fascinating to see how the Eagles’ swarming defence will handle Guildford, as they are undoubtedly the deepest team in the league. It will be a big ask for Fab and his players, but they have some big weapons themselves.’
Stronach identified the in-form Lynard Stewart as the man who holds the trump card for the Eagles, and is adamant that if Stewart is on song, then he will be the main threat for Newcastle.
‘Lynard has the best and fastest footwork of any big man in the league by far,’ he said. ‘He is so quick and a scoring threat, and the Heat will do well to contain him – I think Dorsey and Martin will have their work cut out.
If Charles Smith in particular is fit and Fab is ready to explode, supported by the unsung heroes like Andrew Bridge, then it could be a tremendous occasion.’
After a season ravaged by injuries, Stronach has quietly guided his Raiders side back to the fringes of the title race and is waiting for both Newcastle and Guildford to slip up, although he doesn’t think Sunday’s result will have any effect on the league campaign.
‘You might think it would be a psychological blow to lose the Final but it won’t have any effect at all on the league,’ he said. ‘Fab and Paul James will be looking at this for what it is – a one-off. Fab won’t be worrying about losing successive finals because the only pressure he feels is what he puts on himself. Nobody can put pressure on him after seven trophies in three seasons.’