A STUNNING comeback by Sheffield Sharks has thrown up the BBL play-off tie of the season and given the Cheshire Jets the chance to avenge last year’s quarter-final exit at the hands of derby rivals Mersey Tigers.
When the Sharks overturned a 15-point first-leg deficit to beat Glasgow Rocks, they ensured the Jets, as the lowest-ranked side still in the play-offs, would face BBL Championship kings Mersey Tigers this weekend.
It is a challenge Jets head coach Paul Smith will relish, and it has been made even more interesting due to the fact the Tigers have had home advantage stripped away.
Unable to secure their regular home at Liverpool’s Echo Arena for Sunday’s home leg, they have been forced to move the game to the Amaechi Centre in Manchester (6pm).
So if the Jets can get a first-leg lead on Saturday evening (7.30pm) at the Northgate Arena, they would have a real chance of making the play-off final in Birmingham on April 30.
“They’re the champions and a very tough team to beat,” said Smith. “They play the best defence in the league and share the ball very well on offence. We are expecting a tough 80 minutes of basketball but we are feeling very confident at the moment and are really looking forward to it.”
Smith will need to change tactics after keeping Plymouth Raiders at a distance in the last round. Twice this season the shooting from range of James Jones has killed off the Jets and Smith will have to nullify him to boost the Jets hopes.
“They are very much a team but James Jones has hurt us in the losses so we need to make life more difficult for him,” said the Jets play-caller.
“We’ve matched them pretty well in the league games but they have executed a little better at key times. We will need to continue our defensive progress from the games against Plymouth.”
And after missing Colin O’Reilly for the last few weeks of the regular season, Smith was pleased to see him back and shoring up the Jets’ defence against Plymouth, a role he will need to repeat against the Tigers.
“We have no injury worries now,” he said. “We have been able to rest quite a bit over the last few weeks and we feel fit, sharp and confident.”