THERE is a spring in everyone’s step at the Northgate Arena as the Cheshire Jets redsicovered their winning formula last week.
But after defeating derby rivals Mersey Tigers on the road to end their seven-game losing streak, their play-off credentials will be tested on home turf this Sunday when MK Lions roll into town in the BBL Championship (5.30pm).
Forward Bill Cole is confident the Jets have put their demons to one side and are ready to fulfil their potential as late-season bloomers.
“It was getting mentally challenging to keep focus for every game,” he said. “We’d be in it and we’d lose it right there in the fourth quarter so to finally get on the right side of the score column was a big mental uplift for us.”
The Lions are a very quick team, however, and last time they visited the Jets allowed Demarius Bolds and Howard Crawford to dictate the game and secure the victory.
“They killed us in transition last time and a lot of that was to do with taking care of the ball which we’ve had to harp on about all season,” said Cole, who hails from Illinois.
“Obviously we can play with anyone in the league, we’ve been up on most teams we’ve played and we don’t really fear anyone but against Milton Keynes if we take care of the ball and play fundamentally sound then we will come out with the W.”
Turnovers – surrendering possession – have been the Jets number one concern this season.
It is not a problem that has gone away, with 17 turnovers – a bad game’s worth – in the first half alone against the Tigers.
It was only thanks to giving away just two in the second half that the Jets hung on to win.
“We’ve only got a six-man rotation now and a lot of us play major minutes so when you get tired you start whipping the ball around the floor and turnovers have become our Achilles heel,” said Cole.
“But at Mersey the second half was one of our best halves, we executed well and took care of the ball and those have to be the two biggest strengths if we want to push into the play-offs and make some noise later in the year.
“We’ve struggled at the Northgate a little bit and we want to come and give the fans what they love this weekend, a great performance.”