Basketball: Force chief Newby has sights set on play-offs

Matt Newby.

Matt Newby.

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Leeds Force coach Matt Newby has challenged his players to chase a play-off spot in the BBL Championship.

The Force are currently fourth in the table after back-to-back wins – their best weekend since joining the top-flight last season.

This was reflected in the All-Star Five selections of Louis Sayers and D’Andre Bullard following successive wins against Plymouth Raiders and Cheshire Phoenix.

Those results lifted Leeds to fourth in the table, ahead of tonight’s visit to Carnegie Sports Centre of Surrey Scorchers, who were beaten by Bristol Flyers to make it two defeats from a run of three consecutive home games.

But Newby said: “Maintaining this level of performance will still not be good enough if we have aspirations of a play-off berth.

“We have to make a concerted effort to collect wins before the Christmas break and that means going up a level.

“Am I happy we collected two wins? Yes. Am I happy we are currently fourth in the league? Yes. However it’s still early and a number of teams are just finding their identity as we are.

“To retain the momentum we will have to be increasingly diligent, acknowledge the small details that can be determining factors and be committed to improve daily.”

Leeds have already beaten Surrey this season on home courts, winning 74-69 last month.

“In terms of personnel, Surrey are very well rounded. Creon (Raftopoulos, coach) has brought together a solid cohort for this campaign,” said Newby.

“When they last visited they played up-tempo in the full court and almost as quick in the half-court with a penetrate and pitch/dribble drive style that is pleasing to the eye. It helps they have a strong perimeter with genuine range and that certainly have you scrambling on defence if there is an initial breakdown.”

Sheffield Sharks face a tough trip to reigning champions Newcastle Eagles tonight.

Despite beating the Sharks 85-78 last time the sides met in September, Newcastle player-coach Fab Flournoy is still wary of their threat.

“(The weekend without a game) was an opportunity to reflect and look at ourselves a little bit,” he said.

“We had a very hectic start to the season and spent a lot of time focusing on opponents so it was nice to be able to assess ourselves for a change. (Sheffield) have also had a very tough series of games.

“They are an exciting offensive team and are becoming more cohesive each and every week.”