|December 14, 2019||5:45 pm||WBBL Championship||2019-20|
Chris Bunten insisted his in-form players are fully focused on tonight’s league clash at Oaklands Wolves – three weeks away from Newcastle’s biggest game in years.
The Eagles are due to face Sevenoaks Suns in the WBBL Cup semi-final on January 4 after this week’s draw kept them apart from derby rivals Durham.
But Bunten has put that mouthwatering tie to bed as Newcastle bid to extend their Championship winning streak to six games.
“We talked about the draw when it happened and the consensus is that whoever wins that semi-final is the favourite to win the cup,” said Bunten.
“A trip to Sevenoaks is the toughest possible outcome for us but we were very close to them at the start of the league season so who knows?
“But as a group we agreed it was important to put that tie on the backburner and get the job done at Oaklands.
“They’re a talented team and they’re playing at home so we can’t afford to take them lightly.”
Only five places and six points separate Newcastle and Oaklands in the WBBL Championship table.
But anyone who has witnessed the Eagles’ surge towards the top four since October will be aware that few teams can live with Bunten’s roster right now.
Four of the nine most fouled players in the WBBL wear black and white with rivals running out of ideas in a bid to contain a potentially explosive offence.
And skipper Giulia Simioni is back on top as the league’s leader for assists with the Swiss revelling in her role as playmaker-in-chief.
“In truth I was disappointed with our offence against Manchester last weekend,” added Bunten as he reflected on a thrilling Cup quarter-final win.
“We need to be more efficient at the offensive end and convert more of our possession into points.
“Defensively I have no complaints. Our defence has been excellent all season.”
Oaklands boast one of the league’s most dangerous scorers in the shape of Anneke Schlueter.
The German averages 19 points per game and Bunten added: “We’re aware of her threat.
“I like Lizzy Harrison who’s another player capable of stepping up on any one night.
“We’ll be missing Ruth Thornley and I’d say Millie Oates is only 50/50 at this stage.
“But Orieoma Chukwu-Etu is back and we should still be too strong for the Wolves.
“Of course we’re there to be shot at and people are starting to realise the quality that runs right through our roster.
“This weekend is a potential banana skin but I’m confident that my players will do a professional job.”
Tonight’s clash tips off at 5.45pm.