Esh Group Eagles Newcastle host One Health Sharks Sheffield on Friday with vital Championship points and, the potentially crucial head-to-head tie-breaker, on the line.
Eagles currently hold top spot, eight points ahead of Sharks, but following the Steel City side’s win over second-placed Worcester Wolves last weekend, they could catch and overtake the leaders, should they win their four games in hand.
And with the teams having split their league two meetings so far this season, the winner of Friday’s game would take any potential tie between the two teams at the end of the season.
But Molten BBL Coach of the Month Fab Flournoy won’t get caught up in the hype.
“We still have two games to play after this and I think they have six,” he said. “No games in this league can be assumed to be wins so we will simply be adopting our normal routine.”
That has certainly worked for Eagles recently.
They won all seven of their games in March to take top spot, including dogged displays to overcome Manchester Giants (83-82) and Durham Wildcats (99-95) last weekend.
Such resilience will be required once more on Friday as these teams meet for a fifth time this term, having also been paired in the Cup semifinals – two games they split but Newcastle won on aggregate.
Flournoy added: “Sheffield are extremely well coached and play very disciplined basketball at both ends of the floor.
“They are very smart in key positions on the floor and will not beat themselves. We just have to concentrate on the things we do well and try to match them all over the floor.”
Last time they met:
One Health Sharks Sheffield 94 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 92 (BBL Championship, EIS Sheffield, 25/02/2014)
What they say:
Sharks forward Mike Tuck: “Everyone on the team knows how important this weekend is for us, so they will all be fired up and ready to play.”
Eagles forward Charles Smith (pictured): “A lot of people are saying that this game is the title decider but there are more games to played and we need to win all of them to win the league, not just Friday’s game. “We need to take them out of their comfort zone and make sure we finish off defensive possessions and rebound.”