Leicester Community Sports Arena, 7.30pm Friday 15 April
This season’s two-horse race for the BBL Championship reaches its final hurdle this weekend.
Leicester Riders appeared set to canter to a first league title since 2013, having beaten reigning champions Esh Group Eagles Newcastle in both of their BBL Championship meetings.
But a surprise defeat at the hands of Play-Off-chasing Leeds Force last time out has set up a potential title decider.
With Riders holding the season head-to-head tie-breaker, Eagles must beat Rob Paternostro’s men and follow that up with success at Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday.
Lose to Eagles and Riders must hope Fab Flournoy’s men slip-up while beating London Lions on Sunday.
Last time they met:
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle Leicester Riders 80 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 18 March 2016)
* Riders have won three of the four meetings between these teams this season
* This will be only the third time in BBL history that two teams with a win percentage above 90% have met – the other two being their previous meetings this term
* Riders’ TrayVonn Wright recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds when these teams met last month
What they say:
Riders guard Tyler Bernardini: “For me, I’m really excited. Any time you get another really good team like Newcastle, Sheffield, Worcester, I’m excited to play. It’s fun to go out there and compete with the best, so it’s going to be exciting game against Newcastle.
“I know our fans are really excited about it and we’re going to have an incredible atmosphere. It’s to decide the league, so how can you ask for much more? As a competitor these games are what you want.”
Eagles guard Drew Lasker: “If they win it’s theirs, if we win, we’re one game away. It really is winner takes all. For us, we’ve been in this situation many a time so it’s not a position we don’t want to embrace. It’s basically a Cup Final.
“As a group, we feel confident. We know that we can beat Leicester.
“All four games we have played against Leicester [this season], we just haven’t played well, especially offensively.
“This time around we’re back clicking again as a unit, offensively, where we have got six or seven guys scoring in double figures. Starting at the Cup Final, we just weren’t playing consistently to our standard.
“Last time we played Leicester we had a 10-point lead, but it could have easily been 20, 25 but we just couldn’t make any shots and they ended up punishing us.
“I would say we almost play a little better on the road. It’s everybody against you, you’re a little more focused, there are no distractions. We’ve played pretty well on the road all season, apart from the Worcester game. But this is one game, anything can happen.”
- Eagles have won the last five meetings between these teams
- These teams met during the final weekend of the previous regular season, Phoenix prevailing 101-78
- Eagles (92.52) and Phoenix (82.74) rank first and second in the league respectively in terms of team scoring per-game