BBL play-offs: Clean sweep goal adds pressure - Bridge

Andrew Thomson and Barry Lamble

BBL play-off final - Leicester Riders v Newcastle Eagles

NIA, Birmingham
Saturday, 12 May
16:00 BST
Commentary on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Newcastle

Newcastle Eagles captain Andrew Bridge has said the pressure is on to repeat their 2006 'clean sweep' and win the British Basketball League play-offs.

Eagles have won the Cup, Trophy and league and must beat Leicester Riders in Saturday's final for the quadruple.

Riders have been in fine form in recent weeks, securing their best BBL finish and romping through the play-offs.

Bridge told BBC Newcastle: "It ramps up the pressure. If we don't win, there's still a sense of disappointment."

Eagles finished two points above Riders in the BBL and proved the East Midlanders' nemesis with three wins from five in both the Trophy and Cup.

Bridge, who was a losing finalist with Sheffield Sharks earlier in his career, is wary of ending a successful campaign on a bad note.

"I've been in the play-off final before and lost and no matter what you've done that season you feel disappointment," Bridge added.

"The result probably will have an impact around the feeling of the club for a couple of weeks at least.

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Difficult to compare Eagles - Bridge

"But everything has gone great this year. We go into the game confident and, if we play like we can do then I think, we'll come out with the right result."

The 32-year-old is a survivor of the 2006 triumph, one of four in the Eagles squad to have experienced the grand slam, along with Darius Defoe, Charles Smith and player-coach Fab Flournoy.

However, Flournoy is reluctant to draw comparisons between the respective squads, with his current crop on the verge of writing their own place in BBL folklore.

"I try not to draw too much on what we did in the 2006 season. It was a special year and a special team, but the team this year is special in its own right," Flournoy said.

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Rested Riders ready for Eagles

"We're in an unbelievable belief system within ourselves, you can't touch us.

"That's not to say we won't play badly, that's not to say we won't underperform, but we know we're going to win the basketball game.

"We've been tested so many times, and every time we get tested it's that same thing - we're not going to lose."

While the Eagles have lifted 16 trophies in the last seven years, Leicester's last silverware came in the 2001 BBL play-off final.

However, this season Rob Paternostro's side have clicked into gear with 22 wins in 30 games, coupled with just two defeats in their last 10 regular-season matches.

And, in ending the season as runners-up in the league, the Riders posted their highest league position - improving their previous best of third in 2009.

Paternostro told BBC Radio Leicester: "It feels great to still be playing. It's exciting times.

"This year we have been able to manage guys' minutes and understand having fresh legs are important.

"We want to make sure we are fresh. We want to get the proper training in but we understand it is the middle of May and we started in September.

"This season things have really come together. This is a proud time in my career to get to a final but that is wearing off and now we are focusing on the game.

"They have a lot of guys who have been there before and have won important games.

"They have won them together and they know a lot about each other. We are under no illusions that we will have to play well.

"For basketball fans in Britain I think this is the final that everyone wanted and we feel like we are a team that can make the city proud."

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