Esh Group Eagles Newcastle v Plymouth University Raiders 

Friday 27 February 2015 and Sunday 01 March 2015  

Sport Central – 7:30pm (Fri) – Plymouth Pavilions – 4:00pm (Sun)

Plymouth Raiders will be out to add a fitting climax to their ‘fresh start’ when they face Newcastle Eagles over two legs in the BBL Trophy semi-final this weekend. The league leaders play hosts on Friday before the teams head south for the return, having experienced contrasting fortunes this term.

With an incredible come-from-behind win against London Lions last time out, Eagles extended their record to 29-1 over the past 30 games, the best return over such a stretch since Kingston Kings in 1990. Raiders meanwhile have struggled for consistency, mixing flashes of brilliance with damaging lapses.

But for Raiders coach Jay Marriott and his team, the BBL Trophy has been a welcome release, allowing his team to show what they are really capable of.

“I think mentally in the Trophy we feel it’s a fresh start,” said the Raiders coach. “We took so long to find a roster we really liked and it coincided with the Trophy competition. The pressures of the league can be very unforgiving and as you have seen, one slip up can be disastrous.”

Raiders run in the Trophy started with an impressive destruction of high-flying Cheshire Phoenix before a defeat of Surrey United. Eagles are a completely different proposition, but Marriott is confident his team will rise to the occasion.

Marriott added: “Newcastle are formidable this season and provide the toughest semi-final you could ask for. For us, we have played them very well for a half of basketball, which has been the story of our season so far. We just need to find that consistency in our play, adapt when they adapt and deal with their size advantage in certain positions.”

“I like it being over a weekend, it has a series feel to it, you’re not dwelling on things for too long. I think we will enjoy it being that way. We have the talent, we just have to show that on the big stage.”

Eagles saved their best for the big moments last Friday, scoring 11 unanswered points in the final minute to fight back and beat Lions.

Even player-coach Fab Flournoy is not quite sure how they managed that, but insists that headline-grabbing performance will have no bearing on what will be a thorough examination of their ‘quadruple’ credentials against Raiders.

“To be honest I am not sure that we deserved to win [against London],” said Flournoy. “Our focus wasn’t great and London nearly made us pay. However, Rahmon Fletcher and Scott Martin really stepped up for us at the crunch. They are both extremely underrated players and hopefully this will be the first step to them getting the credit they deserve.”

“Plymouth is different entirely, different team, competition and format. We need to come out with a lot more focus and really hone in at the defensive end.  They are offensively aggressive and look to score 100 points-per-game. Our defence will be critical.”

Having already lifted the BBL Cup and sitting top of the BBL Championship, Eagles are riding their second double-digit win streak of the season.

But for Flournoy nothing will ever be more important than the basics, not even the tactical switches in the short time between the two legs.

“Adjustments are always important but they don’t make up for playing hard, committed and together throughout,” he said.

Last time they met:

Newcastle Eagles 123 Plymouth Raiders 101 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 30 Jan 2015)