Eagles first semi-final of the year looms as The Everton Tigers come to Newcastle this Saturday night for the first leg of the BBL Cup semi final. This game is a change to the previously advertised tie agianst Cheshire Jets. Season tickets and all promotions linked to the Cheshire game are valid for this semi-final tie.

While Airwaves Plymouth Raiders have already qualified for the BBL Cup final, Newcastle Eagles and Everton Tigers start their two-leg semi-final with a game in the north east on Saturday.

Eagles coach Fab Flournoy can’t wait to face the team that many people believe are Newcastle’s biggest rivals for the league title: “Finally we get to meet the Tigers, and it’ll be good to see Tony G back at the arena. I expect he’ll get a warm welcome from the fans for what he’s down for British basketball over the last 10/20 years. I’m sure it’ll be a great occasion.

“They know us and how we’ll play extremely well, and I think we’ve got a great game in prospect. To add more pressure for both teams, it’s the first leg of a cup semi- final so that’s a recipe for something gigantic.”

Flournoy sees Tigers’ big man Andre Smith as their key player: “Tony’s a great recruiter who finds quality players, and Smith is clearly an early candidate for MVP. He’s certainly going to be a handful, but it’s not as if he’s got a poor supporting cast. There’s Midgley, Haslam, James Jones, Olu Babalola, Laken Poloola and that’s even before you discuss Marcus Bailey and Tony Dorsey. Tony’s had a quiet start, but he’s shown over the last couple of years that he gets better as the season progresses.”

Eagles split their two games last weekend, beating old rivals Scottish Rocks before going down in a thriller at Raiders, and Flournoy was reasonably happy with how things worked out for his team: “It was a good weekend. We won a close one against the Rocks and then made the long trip down to Plymouth. I didn’t think we played particularly well, and we missed a lot of free-throws. In a three-point game that’s going to be your downfall, and they deserved to win.”

Tigers coach Tony Garbelotto is excited about the prospect of facing his former club: “This is the reason I got involved with Everton Tigers, so that we would be playing in this kind of game. We want to play and challenge the best, and get to finals. All roads lead through Newcastle if you’re going to win trophies – whether it’s in semi-finals or finals. They’re the top team in the country, and we aspire to match them both on and off the court.

“It’s a two leg tie, and my philosophy is that you can’t win it in the first leg, but you can lose it if you play badly. We need to make every possession count, and although we won’t play differently, we have to take better care of the ball than we have during the last two or three weeks. We need to turn the ball over less, there’s been far too many needless turnovers.”

Garbelotto is impressed by the strength in depth that Eagles possess: “To be honest, the whole roster are match-winners. The big two are Trey Moore and Lynard Stewart, but the difference between them and most teams in the league is that they have a team of big-time players. Guys like Fab, Bridgey (Andrew Bridge) and Charles Smith have all played at the highest level in this country. Although we have players who have played in big games, it hasn’t been in an Everton uniform.”