Leeds Force take on the Cheshire Phoenix in the BBL Trophy tomorrow as they play their first game at the Carnegie Sports Arena in 2017.
The Trophy brings a welcome distraction to the league for the Force and a chance to arrest their run of four straight defeats.
Leeds have failed to progress further than the first round in the last two years but will see Sunday’s clash as a good chance to stop it becoming three.
Coach Matt Newby is all too aware of the failings in the cup but feels his side can progress further in the competition.
He said: ‘We haven’t been too successful in knockout tournaments in the past but with the opportunity of gaining silverware in four or five games it’s something we are looking to do. Cheshire historically are a stable outfit, they have a good programme so it’s not going to be easy but we feel like every game we can win.”
Coach Newby is boosted by having a fully strengthened roster for the first time this season with no injury concerns.
Captain Armand Anebo and Oliver Hylands have recovered from long-term injuries, and both have been seeking minutes on the court.
With a fully fit roster to choose from Newby can now put his plans from pre-season into action and fully utilise his team. Forward Rob Marsden is glad to see the injury table empty for a change.
“It’s good to see everyone is now fit and healthy,” he said. “It’s been tough on everyone having so many injuries to key players at times. (Jermaine) Sanders missed the Sheffield game a few weeks back, he’s our top scorer so when he isn’t playing you feel it.”
There is a rivalry building between the two sides as last season the Force beat the Phoenix to the last play-off spot. Cheshire did, however, beat the Force in the BBL Cup last season in the dying seconds when Akeem Ellis sank a triple with 16 seconds left on the clock. The team they will need to stop sit a place above them in the league standings with just one win more than Leeds.
Cheshire will also take confidence going in to the game knowing they have already beaten the Force on their own floor after they came out 88-68 winners back in early October.
There may be weariness in the Cheshire legs as this game comes as part of a double-header weekend for them.
They came up against league leaders Newcastle Eagles on Friday night and have to travel to Yorkshire after being up in the North East.
With the last knockout game between these two sides having been decided so close to the final buzzer this game is sure to be another tight affair.