|April 20, 2019||4:00 pm||WBBL Championship||2018-19|
Chris Bunten is braced to play the waiting game this weekend as he makes late decisions on the fitness of key players and watches this season’s final playoff picture take shape.
Win or lose against Manchester Mystics today, Newcastle Eagles will finish seventh in the WBBL Championship table.
And the only issue is whether Bunten’s roster faces Leicester Riders or Sheffield Hatters in a one-off quarter-final tie next weekend.
The two teams play each tomorrow in a winner-takes-all clash for runners-up spot behind champions Sevenoaks Suns.
And Bunten insisted: “We’re ready for either the Riders or the Hatters.
“Leicester are second and Sheffield are pretty beat up right now so I’d expect Riders to retain the runners-up spot.
“We beat them at home a few weeks ago so I’d be happy to go down there and give it our best.
“But I’d be just as confident taking on the Hatters. Whoever we get, we’re the team with a bit of momentum at just the right time.”
Victory against fourth-placed Manchester to wrap up the regular season would be Newcastle’s fourth win on the bounce and represent the perfect record heading into the post-season.
“It would be great to go into that playoff game on the back of four successive victories,” added Bunten.
“That’s all the incentive we need this weekend.
“At this stage of the season that sort of form is all you can ask for and if we could take another top four scalp into the quarter-finals it would be a huge boost.
“But of course I have to be sensible about the situation as coach.
“We can’t move up or down the table whatever the result and I want to make sure my roster is in the best shape possible before we take on Leicester or Sheffield.”
Bunten welcomes back Maya Price after the WBBL rookie completed her ambassadorial trip to the USA earlier this week.
But Kalina Axentieva faces a late fitness test as the Bulgarian continues to experience pain in her intercostal muscles.
“Maya matches up well against Manchester’s Julie Page and Samantha Ruscoe so I might be tempted to use her, however sparsely,” added Bunten.
“Kalina is a different situation. I’d rather she was fully fit and raring to go in the playoffs but we’re taking her situation day by day.”
The final fixture of Newcastle’s regular season tips off at 4pm at Manchester’s National Basketball Performance Centre.