Weekend Basketball preview
Updated: Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 10:10None
UL Eagles stand on the cusp of a second straight Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague title this weekend, needing just one win from their two games to lift the trophy.
Meanwhile it will be out with calculators in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague as the final weekend of the regular season has thrown up some tantalising playoff possibilities depending on results Saturday night.
For UL Eagles fans, all eyes will be on the National Basketball Arena on Friday when their team take on an in-form Dublin Inter.
A win for Eagles and they are champions for 2012/13, a loss and the pressure will mount on a team that have already let one chance to wrap up the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague slip through their fingers.
“We are definitely not looking past Friday night,” insisted Eagles head coach Mark Keenan, who will lead out his charges again the following day at home against Bord Gais Neptune.
“We are bitterly disappointed that we didn’t finish things last weekend but even by Monday at training, the mood was good in the team.
“There is no such thing as waiting until Saturday and trying to win the league at home. We want to win it Friday night and we’ll be gunning to get it there and then.”
Eagles’ opponents, Dublin Inter, have enjoyed a superb run of form recently, topped by their stunning win in Cork last Saturday versus SuperLeague Cup Champions Bord Gais Neptune.
“They are really finding their feet now and they’ve had some huge wins recently,” said Keenan of Inter, who are currently coming to the end of their first ever season in SuperLeague.
“They have quality players and we will have to keep battling for a full forty minutes if we want to win.”
Should Eagles fail to rise to the occasion on Friday night, they will get one more bite at the cherry this weekend when they host Bord Gais Neptune on Saturday.
The SuperLeague Cup champions have suffered a small dip in form recently and are on a three game losing streak but will know that they have what it takes to defeat Eagles after getting the better of the sides’ recent Cup final meeting.
Waiting in the wings should Eagles fall are UCC Demons who play a DCU Saints side on Sunday that are busy chasing fourth place and a spot in the end of season Champions Trophy.
The Dublin side had a huge win last weekend in Galway over their closest challenger Moycullen, gifting them a head to head advantage that could prove crucial.
“It’s really tight and every game is really important. We played good defence last weekend after being in trouble with referees a lot in the weeks prior. We’ll need another game like we had in Galway to get a result Sunday,” said Dave Donnelly, head coach of Saints.
“They have firepower all over the court so all we can do is to make them work for what they get.”
Donnelly will no doubt be casting an eye over the Killester v Moycullen matchup Saturday night as both teams are lurking dangerously behind in fifth and sixth place.
While both teams would need to win out as well as have Saints drop two of their remaining three games to steal fourth, considering the topsy-turvy season so far, nobody is counting out either side just yet.
“We have just two games left so we will give them everything. Then, we will pray that Saints lose a couple,” said Moycullen head coach Salva Camps, who has led his young Galway team to their best ever record in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague.
“Saints have three very tough games left and it is very possible for them to lose two. We need to try our best to take care of our business and if we lose let it be because we didn’t get the breaks, not because we didn’t prepare thinking the season was over.”
With the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague being decided by playoffs, this weekend’s final round of regular season play is all about jostling for seeding.
The top six that will advance are already set but it remains to be seen in what order. While UL Huskies and Team Montenotte Hotel have already secured the first and second seed and byes to the semi-finals, only third placed DCU Mercy out of the quarter-final bound teams are assured of their seed.
Several different scenarios could leave WIT Wildcats, Ulster Rockets or Meteors anywhere between fourth and sixth.
The task is plainest for Wildcats who will know that a win against Killester in Clontarf would assure them of fourth place. However, as head coach John Hayes knows well, earning a win versus Killester in Clontarf is never a simple affair.
Half an hour after tip-off in Clontarf, Ulster Rockets and Meteors take to the floor in Belfast knowing that a Wildcats loss would open up the chance for either to possibly take fourth.
Regardless of the Wildcats result, the Belfast clash is of major importance with Meteors needing to win by nine or more to at least overtake Rockets for fifth place and therefore avoid the mighty DCU Mercy in the quarter finals.