Cheshire Phoenix will be looking to put behind them their disastrous second half display against Durham Wildcats last weekend in the BBL Cup which resulted in a first round exit, as current bottom side, Surrey United, visit the Northgate Arena.
Despite being eleven points up at half-time, Wildcats came out fighting to grab the 78-75 win, and for John Lavery’s side it was a case, again, of not being able to produce 100% from tip-off to the final buzzer.
“It was a game of two halves,” believes Phoenix head coach Lavery, “but in that first half we’d played as well as we’d played all year like we had done against Worcester Wolves a few weeks ago. We knew they were going to make a run at us, but we came out sluggish and slow, but I was disappointed that we didn’t execute down the stretch and defend either defensively or offensively.
“My guys are a young, good bunch of kids working hard for each other, but I’ve told them they need to do it for forty minutes not twenty or thirty; start doing that, then they put performances together and not just in spurts,” Lavery continued.
A new addition to the roster, Victor Moses, did however put up an impressive performance, but was hampered by picking up early fouls in the game.
“Victor picked up two fouls in the first quarter, so we sat him out of the second, but to get 18 points and 14 rebounds, we are quite happy with what he put out on the floor, considering he came out from a short period of time training with us last week and has helped improve our inside game already.”
One aspect that may strength that area of the Phoenix’s game is yet another roster change with French forward, Masse Doumbe being cut and US/Dutch power forward Gerald Robinson, formerly of the Plymouth Raiders, announced on Thursday as his replacement.
Their opposition though this Sunday could not, on paper, seem to be easier.
Surrey United have lost all five of their games in the BBL Championship thus far, with their closest defeat coming at the hands of the Wildcats (79-100). Leicester Riders last weekend kept them to below 40 points, but it must also be remembered that the reigning champions also restricted Phoenix two weeks ago to just fifteen points in the second half of their last home outing.
Phoenix ran out 79-63 winners in pre-season over United, but Lavery feels that result is all but null and void: “You have to throw that one out of the window; both sides have had personnel changes, and as far as results have gone, you can’t look at them and rely on them to their performance on Sunday.”
There have been many critics of the Surrey outfit, drawing similarities to that of last year’s Mersey Tigers, who went winless over the entire 2012/13 season; but Lavery refuses agree that the same fate will occur to Jack Majewski’s United.
“They will come out against us for certain and they are finding their way in this league,” says Lavery, “everyone knows they can pick up a win, so I don’t see them going winless like Mersey Tigers. They have a great coach in Jack [Majewski], and they will keep doing what they are doing until they get a win.
The Cheshire head coach went on to finish by saying: “Our focus though is not on what they are doing, or worry about their results, but what we are doing on the floor so that we can pick up results of our own.”