Basketball: Leeds Force are hoping for a cup lift after hefty league loss

Leeds Force's 'captain fantastic' Armand Anebo.
Leeds Force's 'captain fantastic' Armand Anebo.
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The player head coach Matt Newby dubs Leeds Force’s ‘captain fantastic’ insists the BBL side need to go back to basics if they are to avoid a repeat of last week’s humbling by the Leicester Riders.

A trip to a side sitting second in the standings with just one defeat to their name, was always going to be a tall order for a Leeds team gamely chasing a spot in the coveted top-eight play-offs.

But the manner of the loss, 91-43, was so chastening that their captain Armand Anebo took to Twitter to express his disappointment.

“We were extremely poor today to say the least... We have to be better,” he wrote in the wake of Saturday’s heavy loss.

Five days later, when asked to set the scene on tonight’s opening BBL Trophy game of the season – with Chesire Phoenix the visitors to the Carnegie Sports Arena at Leeds Beckett University – Anebo’s thoughts were still motivated by that setback.

“In order for us to be competitive and be in games against the higher teams we have to be perfect or near perfect, and that’s at both ends of the floor,” said the Ivorian, whose side have won just one of six in a tricky run.

“But against Leicester we struggled, and failed to do the basics right hence the result.”

Tonight’s knockout game at least offers an opportunity to atone quickly, with the visiting Phoenix having lost seven straight games amid a flurry of player departures.

“The Trophy is an opportunity for us to finally make a cup run,” said Anebo, who was part of the team two years ago this month that made their BBL bow in this very competition.

“However, we understand it won’t be an easy game by any means. So as long as we come to the game focused, execute our game plan and play our game we should be okay.”

From Newby’s perspective, he could not have a better person delivering his message on the court than Anebo.

“Armand is our captain fantastic,” said Newby.

“He sets the standard in terms of work-rate and aptitude. He raises everybody.”

And the recent run should not mask what has been a step up in performance from Force in their second season among the elite.

They are right in the thick of the race for a top-eight play-off spot, and Newby paid tribute to a clutch of players who have contributed this season.

“It’s great to have Bob Marsden on the floor. He’s played under me before so knows how I operate and he’s a top pro’,” said Newby, who praised the entrie squad for their work over this season.

“Likewise, it’s great to have Zak Wells back playing for us. One of the things we missed last year was the depth of forward line but we believe we’ve got that now. Daryl Bethune seems to get better as he understands what more we want from him. He and Dwayne Camille are coming into their own.”

Following tonight’s game (7.30pm), Force travel to Plymouth Raiders in the league on Sunday. Newby added: “It’s a game we have to take if we’re serious about the top-eight.”