AFTER bouncing back from every setback put before them this season, the Cheshire Jets must lay everything on the line to keep their dream of silverware alive after disappointing at the Northgate Arena.
Despite the Mersey Tigers coming to Chester unable to play their skipper Drew Sullivan through injury this evening, the Jets failed to capitalise as their usual sniper-like accuracy around their opponents basket deserted them.
The Jets took 10 more shots than the Tigers in the game and scored seven less, despite beating the Tigers on rebounds and matching them on turnovers.
It just seemed that every shot the Jets made bounced out or went too deep and the frustration showed at times, passes going to empty spaces as the Jets tried to force themselves into a run.
The Tigers took the lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it, the Jets spending most of the game behind to double digits, and as they tried to close the gap their decision making suffered, as the usually court-savvy Jets took shots when there were passes on and made passes when they should have shot.
That Jeremy Bell, the Jets' top scorer, finished with less than 20 told the story, his 17 the best the Jets could muster. Calvin Davis and Stephen Gayle brought order to proceedings when they were introduced, but they simply slowed the Tigers tide, which flowed unopposed thanks to the Jet's shooting problems.
What head coach Paul Smith was keen to highlight however is that this is only half-time and there are 40 more minutes of basketball to play tomorrow at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester. But the Jets need to rediscover their intestinal fortitude if they are to overturn the deficit and secure a place in next Saturday's showpiece finale in Birmingham.
"It's only half time thankfully, because that was a pretty poor performance by us," said Smith. "Credit to the Tigers they played very well, they had a good gameplan and they made it difficult for us. We missed a lot of open looks, a lot of wide open shots today and you have nights where everybody shoots like that.
"It would be unusual to get it twice running so we'll just regroup and come back tomorrow. It's not about luck it's about good shooting. You want your good shooters to be able to shoot in the big games. Theirs did and they put the ball away and we didn't.
"You'll have swings, you'll have runs. We didn't really have a good run tonight really, we never got closer than about eight or nine I think so it's a deficit of 15 points over 40 minutes. It's not a lot, it's do-able but obviously we need to come out and make sure 15 goes to five and not 25 and then it's an uphill struggle."
Smith said the situation going into tomorrow's game is not complex, but requires total commitment and effort from his players.
"We're supposed to be playing hard for every single minute and I'm not sure we were at times. With two-legged stuff people try to make it more complicated than it is, It's just 80 minutes of basketball.
"We'll get the tape in the morning, there's not too much we can change but we have other ways of playing, other sets we can run."
And when asked whether the tie was over, Smith was insistent.
"It's not over, of course it's not. We're disappointed, I don't think we'll play that poorly on offence again but defensively we kept their shooting to 44%, turned them over 14 times so we can get stops.
"Offensively we were just so poor, every time one of my players was taking a shot I could feel it not going in, It just felt like one of those nights. If that happens again tomorrow we'll be going home on Monday so hopefully we can knock a few shots down and make a game of it.
"The travelling support is definitely going to help but it's not the fans that make the plays and take the shots. We need the shooters to knock their shots down.
"These are the big games. It's all very well knocking 35 down on Essex or whatever it is these are the games where guys have to turn up and that's the challenge so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Tomorrow's game at the Amaechi Centre in Manchester tips-off at 6pm.