- National Teams
Watch the NBL Division 2 Men’s playoff Final live from the NBPC in Manchester as City of Birmingham Rockets take on St Helens Saints.
It’s an all-North conference affair to close proceedings on day one, with both teams coming through some tough playoff games to make it this far.
CoB topped #8 seeds Greenwich Titans 89-69 in the opening round before beating #5 seeds Worcester Wolves last weekend 70-55, adding those two post-season wins to a near-perfect 21-1 league campaign.
St Helens showed they absolutely belong at this level with a 109-75 win over #6 seeds Ipswich and a road upset of South conference winners and #2 seeds London Elite, coming through 78-69.
To secure both those results off the back of a 20-2 regular season in their first season in Division Two shows the quality the Saints possess. The North West outfit went a perfect 20-0 in D3 last term, creating a winning culture across the club that they’d love to continue into this final.
St Helen’s only losses this season have both come courtesy of the Rockets, with CoB winning their home leg 72-59 back in mid-October before a return success in late January, winning that game 98-94.
The Saints led that most recent encounter 86-70 heading into the fourth quarter before a stunning comeback from the visitors turned the tables in the last ten minutes.
Martyn Gayle top-scored with 29 points that day, and the CoB player/coach was recognised in the league’s end of season awards that were announced this week. Gayle was selected as the North’s Coach of the Year, also sealing a spot in both the conference’s Team of the Year and British Team of the Year.
Similarly, St Helens had plenty of admirers this season as former-BBL man Connor Murtagh plus team-mate Disraeli Lufadeju also slotted into the North’s Team of the Year and British Team of the Year.
If the Saints have learned enough about this weekend’s opponents from their previous two meetings to seal a win at the third time of asking remains to be seen, but their showing through three quarters of their last match up suggests the North West challengers should be able to match their North conference rival once again.
With both teams sure to bring a significant following with them to Manchester, the atmosphere is sure to be electric as both sides battle for the season’s ultimate accolade, the playoff title.