- National Teams
The EBL season comes to a close this coming weekend at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester with the Division 1 Final Fours and Division 2 Playoff Final. Who will join Liverpool (D4) and London Greenhouse Pioneers (D3) as playoff champs?
In the Division 1 playoffs the weekend will take a Final-Four format with the Semi-Finals on Saturday and the Final on Sunday.
League, Cup and Trophy Champions Reading Rockets will take on this season’s dark horses in the Bradford Dragons who finished fourth this season under the stewardship of EBL Coach of the year Chris Mellor.
Bradford demolished Reading 85-64 in their first match-up of the season in November, but the tables were turned the next time they faced off in February as Rockets cruised to an 82-62 win.
“We are really excited to be in the Final Four to finish this amazing season,” said Rockets Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces.
“This group of players deserve to be here because they are working a lot everyday and we want to be competitive in this event, giving a spectacle to the people that are following us and following basketball in UK.
“Our semi-final against Bradford is going to be a really nice game. Bradford is the only team that this year beat us really clearly in November. I know that Chris Mellor is working really good and his team is going to be ready for this match; but also us, we have to control emotions and play our basketball on defence and offense. We want to play this weekend 2 games and to do this we have to start with a victory on Saturday.”
The other semi sees Robert Youngblood’s Essex Leopards (2nd) face Matt Newby’s Leeds Carnegie (6th). Carnegie, who will be heading to the BBL next season, look to finish their tenure in Division One with the ultimate piece of silverware. They will be hoping that point guard Josh McGinn can overcome his injury to play a role this weekend while Essex will look to American big man Howard Crawford to again lead the side to victory.
The match-ups during the season have been neck and neck; Carnegie drew first blood with a hard fought 64-61 win in January, with Branimir Mikulic pouring in 20 points for Leeds. The Leopards returned the favour last month with a 77-70 win in Essex.
“Essex obviously have an experienced roster and reflect a BBL type profile team in terms of their physicality and players,” said Newby looking ahead to the weekend.
“We need to focus on our defensive performance, which we didn’t get right down in Essex during the season. They’re deep, Crawford is a must win match up for us and he will be a handful, as will Carl Josey and Chris Clark be on the perimeter.
“It’s been a demanding year for us, but we’ve been competitive on all front and achieved a lot with a young roster but of course I’m looking for the perfect finish.”
The Division 2 Final will be played out on Sunday as we already know that league champions the Derby Trailblazers will go up against Ipswich Basketball Club for the title of Playoff Champions.
Derby defeated Killamarsh and Brixton to get this far and will hope that Hoopsfix Player of the Year Alex Dorr will dominate inside as usual, although it will be his toughest task to date as he comes up against the exciting British duo of Tom Sadler and Leigh Greenan, both of whom will look to inflict serious damage inside.
The teams have split the Division 2 regular season series, with Derby taking the first match-up, 94-86, and Ipswich coming out on top in the second 75-70.
“Ipswich have had a good season and are definitely a club on the rise,” said Derby Head Coach James Maudsley.
“We have had three close games with them this season and will need to be at our best to have a positive outcome at the weekend. My players have worked incredibly hard this season to be in the position we find ourselves in, not many people considered us favourites to be promoted and the guys have enjoyed proving people wrong all year.
“Ipswich have a number of former EBL D1 and professional players that we need to be aware of – their academy players have really stepped up as the season had gone on too. We’ve been in fantastic form recently and are all looking forward to what should be a great game.”
With the promotion situation from Division 2 still undecided by England Basketball, both teams will look to win this game to boost their chances further of a place in the top flight for next season.
Saturday 26th April
12pm: City of Sheffield Hatters vs Cardiff Archers (D1 Women semi-finals)
2pm: Reading Rockets vs Bradford Dragons (D1 Men semi-finals)
4pm: Nottingham Wildcats vs Loughborough Riders (D1 Women semi-finals)
6pm: Essex Leopards vs Leeds Carnegie (D1 Men semi-finals)
Sunday 27th April
10:45am: Ipswich vs Derby – D2 Men Playoff Final
1pm: D1 Women Playoff Final
4:15pm: D1 Men Playoff Final
Tickets: Adults – £10 per day, concessions £5 per day
Weekend: Adults – £18, consessions £8
For more information about tickets call 0161 881 0090 or visit amaechibasketballcentre.com