Leicester can expect BBL Trophy final fight from Sheffield, says Daniel Routledge
Leicester may be favourites, but don't write off Sheffield in the BBL trophy Final, says Daniel Routledge.
Last Updated: 07/03/13 9:34am
As predicted Sheffield made it through comfortably and the Leicester-Worcester semi-final was extremely tight, with Leicester just edging it in the last few minutes, even though they lost their year-long unbeaten home run.
So the Riders, who've lost in their two previous Trophy Finals, face the Sharks who have also only made two appearances in this game, albeit they won on their last time out in 1998.
I was at both semi-final second legs and Sheffield's progression to the final was never in doubt from the moment I found out neither Jerome Gumbs nor Chez Marks were available for Cheshire.
Down 14 points after the first leg, it was always going to be a mountain for them to climb, but without those two their best outcome was to try and keep the second leg close, which they weren't able to do.
The other semi-final was a really nail-biter. It look liked the Riders had done the job early in the second quarter with a 21-point aggregate cushion, but some superb play from Alex Owumi either side of half-time got the Wolves right back into the tie.
I think that 8-0 finish to the first half was vital for the Wolves; if they had gone into the locker room ten down on the night, I don't think they would have made it back.
But make it back they did, thanks to some great shooting from Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and with five minutes to go they led by a point overall.
Riders played the two-legged format well, concentrating on the aggregate rather than the scoreboard and the Wolves fell just a bit short, but they were pleased with their efforts over the two nights and will doubtless redouble themselves for the play-offs.
I'm sure the bookies' will make Leicester heavy favourites for the final and having covered two of their beat downs of Sheffield this season, I can understand why - the Sharks have scored 55, 70, 45 and 51 in their four meetings with the Riders and lost by 16, 20, 30 and 21.
But two words of warning for anyone expecting a similar thrashing this weekend: firstly, for the best part of three-quarters in the last meeting between the sides, Sheffield were right there with the Riders and secondly, may I remind you of the 2011 Cup Final?
If anything Mersey went into that game even bigger favourites against the Sharks than Leicester will be in Glasgow, but they came out of it on the wrong end of a 93-66 beating.
Doubtless Drew Sullivan will have been telling his Riders team-mates about that defeat this week, as he and Dave Aliu were the only Tigers who really showed up on the day.
Sullivan may prefer to recall the last time Riders were in the Trophy Final in 2006 when his MVP display guided the Eagles to victory over Leicester.
One man going into the game with plenty of positive memories from Trophy Finals past is Andrew Bridge, who is looking to set two records by becoming the first man to win six of them and the first to get to 19 titles overall.
For me, the key will be the performance of the Sharks' backcourt combo of Micah Williams and BJ Holmes; Williams is eighth in the league at three-point shooting, but he has not been able to knock them down against Leicester.
It's not easy to shoot over those wings of Sullivan and Jay Couisnard, but he has got to find a way to make some for the Sharks to overcome the odds.
Holmes will have to weather the defensive storm that is bound to come his way, such is the depth of the Riders they can play him full court for basically the entire game, throwing three, four, even five different guys at him to wear him down.
If he can overcome that and still find the energy to distribute the ball and make his shots into the fourth quarter then Sheffield will have a chance.
The Sharks must find a way to consistently score, they have to put up a decent number, but Leicester are so miserly that won't be easy.
Whilst the Riders can score, they don't often need too - they are top of the table, but ninth in the league in points per game - so forcing them to put high 80s on the board might be the best way of overcoming them.