BBL-bound Leeds Carnegie face a pivotal weekend in their quest to end their English League tenure on a high.
The city’s leading club is being elevated to the top tier of British basketball next season but they are having to put preparations and excitement for that on hold as they chase a spot in the end-of-season play-offs.
With a little over a month to go in the season, their record has a perfect symmetry as they enter what in US College Basketball parlance is their own version of March Madness.
Carnegie have a win-loss ratio of 8-8 and sit in eighth place in Division One with the top eight teams in the 14-club league progressing to the post-season.
With 10 games left they have it all to play for, starting this weekend with a double-header against the two teams directly below them – Westminster Warriors on Saturday at Carnegie Sports Arena (7.30pm) and Tees Valley Mowhaks away on Sunday (3pm).
“Westminster are two places behind us on 5-12 and still with a chance, but the trip to Tees Valley on Sunday could be a massive game,” said director of coaching Matt Newby.
“Tees Valley have a lot of imports so it’s a big game for us. But the Westminster one on Saturday is one we cannot afford to not be 100 per cent right for.
“Our aim is to get fourth or fifth, ideally fourth place for a home draw in the first round of the play-offs. But the league has really concertinered in the last few weeks.”
Carnegie’s regular season ends on the first weekend of April with the opening round of the play-offs, a one-off tie, scheduled for the weekend of April 12-13. Reaching the final four play-off weekend in Manchester on April 26-27 is the ambition as they seek to end their association in the English League on a high.
Upon the conclusion of their season, planning for their inaugural season in the BBL will go into overdrive.
Until then, Newby is having to find a balancing act between plotting for the future and managing the present.
“I’ve got to do both,” said Newby, who is the head coach of the first team.
“The support of my coaching staff and administration staff has been vital which bodes well for the future.
“I’ve just got to do the best job I can on the floor. I need to get the lads moving in the right direction towards the end of the season.
“There’s a lot of excitement but we have a more immediate job.
“We seem to be getting everyone’s best game when we play them in the league, and there’s been a suspicious amount of players using games against us as a bit of a shop window.
“It’s an interesting dynamic and it comes with the territory.
“People see where we’re headed and they want to be a part of it.
“We are getting application after application from players across the league and Europe and North America.
“We have to continue recruiting for next season, but I want to finish the season on a high and give the players we currently have here the chance of moving forward with us into next season.”
Newby reports that Carnegie’s first taste of BBL action last month in the Trophy against Glasgow Rocks was well received by the top league’s governing body, and has resulted in a small increase in attendance at home game and a more significant upturn in the amount of children joining Carnegie’s community programme.