CHESTER Jets are preparing themselves to go toe-to-toe with the Brighton Bears in tomorrow's BBL Trophy final in Sheffield.
The Jets, in what will be coach Paul Smith's first final, believe they will have to stand up to the Bears' physical style in order to have a chance of taking the trophy.
But Smith has backed his players to be up to the challenge. He said: "Brighton are a very aggressive team with some tremendous athletes. For us to compete, we will have to go toe-to-toe with them for the full 40 minutes.
"It will be like heavyweight champions slugging it out in the ring and I want us to the last ones standing, so that is what I will be stressing to the players all week and before the game itself."
However, the Jets face a struggle before they even get on the court at the Sheffield Arena, as three of their starting five players suffered ankle injuries during last week's victory over Sheffield.
James Hamilton, Calvin Davis and skipper John McCord all turned their left ankles, and while McCord and Hamilton are likely to shake off their injuries in time, coach Smith rates Davis as 'very doubtful'.
He said: "They are all very influential players for us, especially in what is likely to be a key area of the game - the rebounds. The Bears have some big men who claim a lot of rebounds, and we need those three guys to counteract that and make a difference for us.
"They will all be having physiotherapy, with plenty of ice and plenty of rest and I am hoping John and James will be able to train with us by the end of the week. For Calvin, there will be no training at all in the hope that we will be able to get some minutes out of him at the weekend."
As well as preparing his players, Smith is readying himself for what will be the major test in his first season as coach of the Jets.
While he is delighted to have reached the final of one of the British game's major competitions, Smith admits to having a few butterflies in his stomach ahead of the match.
"When I talk about it I get a few butterflies because this is an emotional situation, but I am trying to keep that out of it as it won't help me to win the game," he said.
"It is exciting though and days like Saturday are why anyone plays sport. This game is one of the biggest of the season. My goal at the start was to win a trophy and we are in a position to do that.
"Brighton are a tough, tough team though and they have a great coach in Nick Nurse, so we will have to work hard to overcome them, but I believe in what we are doing and the players here at Chester."
In particular, Smith believes the experience of his team could be crucial if the game is close.
"We have won this trophy three times before, and several of the team were playing in those games," he said. "The best players raise their game for the big
matches and when it comes down to winning close games, that and experience are often the deciding factors.
"I have got the type of players here who always show character and step up when they have to."
Smith will also go into the final buoyed by the good luck messages he has received from family, friends and Chester Jets fans.
"They have been great from the start of the season," he said, "and I am looking forward to seeing the usual suspects there on Saturday.
"We have been in six or seven finals in the past few years and the support has been tremendous. Our fans follow us across the country and make a tremendous noise which I want to hear in full voice on Saturday.
"We will be doing our best to win and I want to see everybody there because they could make the difference between winning and losing."
Beginner's guide to basketball
* Basketball originated in late December 1891 in the gym of the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts
* It is played between two teams of five players with each game lasting 40 minutes, split into four quarters of 10 minutes each.
* The teams try to score by getting the ball through the opposition's hoop or net within 24 seconds, called the shot clock.
* For scoring from close in, teams get two points. Baskets from outside a semi-circle measuring 6.25metres from the hoop are worth three points. Players also get free throws if they are fouled, which are worth one point.
* Basketball is theoretically a non-contact sport, with players being penalised for contact referees consider could have been avoided. A player is allowed five fouls before being 'fouled out' - not allowed to play any more, although a substitute can be used.
For information on the sport or the TCS Chester Jets, visit their website, www.jetsbasketball.co.uk/