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GB co-captain Kieron Achara ‘can’t wait’ to play in the BBL Cup Final on Sunday, and is hoping to inspire Glasgow Rocks to silverware at the Barclaycard Arena.
The Rocks have not had their hands on a trophy for over a decade, and Achara admits it would be an important victory for the club if they were to overcome Newcastle Eagles in the final.
“It would be a great achievement,” he told Hoopsfix. “When I first joined this season, we talked as a team about our goals and we wanted to compete for silverware. The final is a great opportunity, and for the club to be heading in the right direction.
The two teams last met in the final game of 2014 with Newcastle coming out on top with an 88-69 victory at the Emirates Arena, and their current win streak is at 19. While anything can happen in a one-off final, Achara believes there are still things to be learnt from the defeat.
“For me, we take losses as a learning experience. We weren’t playing great basketball, but we know that we can improve and what we need to work on.
“Newcastle are a very physical, well drilled team with a deep squad and we will have to maintain our discipline. We have to do a great job defensively, and especially keep them off the offensive boards and not give up easy points because they will punish us.”
The leadership and experience of Achara will also be a huge positive for the Rocks in the final, and the 31-year-old is prepared for the onus to be on him to lead from the front with a commanding performance.
“I take that responsibility,” he said. “We have a talented squad, but I have always been someone to put that pressure on myself. I probably had one of the worst games of my career against Newcastle so I’ve been working hard over the last week or so.
“My one piece of advice to my team-mates would be just to focus on the little things. Get them right and everything else will fall in place. The atmosphere will be electric, but it’s important to stay focused.”
Despite his glowing averages and November Player of the Month award, the Scot admits it has taking a while to adjust to the league having previously only had short stints in the BBL.
“It is very different to what I’m used to; from the long bus rides on game-days, to the style of refereeing, more attack mode and 1-on-1 basketball that is played here compared to Europe.
“It has caught me by surprise how some teams play, but I now feel more acclimated to the league.”
Glasgow have closed out some tight games on their cup run, with Achara’s game-winner against Leicester already cemented in BBL history, but have seen their league form dip as they find themselves locked in a battle for the playoffs.
“We’ve shown what we can do, against bigger teams in the league. But, at the same time, we are 10th in the league so whilst we can play with the best, we are down there with the worst.
“Our inconsistencies have frustrated me, but it is something we are working on as a team.”
One major factor contributing to the Rocks’ indifferent form has been injuries. GB forward Ali Fraser struggled on his return from a knee injury, and played a handful of games before leaving the club, while Sterling Davis and JaJuan Smith have also been forced to miss games this season.
“I think it has played a part to our inconsistency, having been plagued with injuries. Some guys are playing a heavy amount of minutes, and are not getting the rest they usually would.
“In the third quarter, we tend to break down because players have been burnt-out so it definitely helps having everyone back fit.”
While Glasgow haven’t played a game this year yet, Newcastle defeated Surrey last week and face a top of the table clash against Worcester Wolves tonight as they look to extend their winning streak. However, Achara feels that the league game will have no baring on Sunday’s outcome.
“I don’t feel like we have an advantage by not playing. Newcastle are used to playing two games a week, so that won’t effect them and both teams will be ready for the final.”
Whilst the Cup Final will be a great spectacle for the league, Achara also believes BBL fans have been given an extra treat following the news of Devon van Oostrum’s loan deal with Leeds Force.
“It’s great for the fans to get to see his talent in the league,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal talent, and he will have the chance to play quality minutes and mature as a player. I’m happy for Devon and wish him all the best.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle forward Darius Defoe is ‘desperate’ to put last year’s heartache behind them and claim victory in Sunday’s final.
The BBL Cup Final is a highlight of the UK basketball calendar. The Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham is expected to sell out on Sunday 11 January with tickets available from www.theticketfactory.com/
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