With just 3 weeks left of SBC League basketball in the Men’s league and only 2 weeks left in the Women’s league, there is so much still to be determined.
On the men’s side, a winner is not guaranteed just yet, and we have a pack fighting for position in the top 4 Playoff positions. On the women’s side, although City of Edinburgh secured the League title a few weeks back, it is heating up beneath them as we have 5 teams fighting for the 2nd spot, and 4 teams fighting for the 7th and 8th spots in the play-offs. The stakes are extremely high now, and will only get higher as we head towards the Playoffs.
Our Game of the Week stays with the Men’s SBC on this occasion as Sony Centre Fury welcome Boroughmuir Blaze to the Mariner in a Scottish Cup Final replay on Friday night. The game may be the most important of the season for both teams, as a win for Fury would all but confirm them as 2016-17 Champions.
Fury have been the undoubted top team in the league this season, sitting in 1st with a 15-1 record, looking comfortable in almost all of their games, including against top teams such as St. Mirren and Boroughmuir with a 103-74 routing of Saints at The Lagoon and a 77-61 victory over Blaze earlier in the season.
The Falkirk side without question have the best 3-point shooting team in the league which is a staple of their offence and when it works, it has led to some large scoring margins.
However there is the potential to rely too much on their shooting at times which has given a small window in some games for teams to take advantage. City of Edinburgh were able to do this just before Christmas when they stayed with Fury, and then went in front as Fury’s shooting went cold, handing them their sole defeat of the season.
A similar course of events happened in the Scottish Cup Finals just two weeks ago, when Blaze came close to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Fury when Falkirk went cold in the final quarter.
Blaze have had a very good season, attempting to defend the SBC title they won for the first time in a generation last season. They started off with some struggles, and looked as though they were clearly better than most teams in the league but not quite at the level of what was the top 3 (Fury, Saints, Kings) as they suffered defeats to all 3 by over 10 points.
From that point however they have looked much improved, not losing a single game, winning the reverse fixtures against both City of Edinburgh and St. Mirren and getting all the way to the Scottish Cup Final in the process, only losing out to Fury by 5 points in the end.
They now find themselves in 3rd place in the league with a 12-3 record, and are now the only remaining team with a chance of stopping a 4th title in 5 seasons for Fury.
So now to this game specifically, both teams are well matched and enjoy a high tempo game, where they look for driving opportunities but aren’t shy in getting 3-point attempts in the air if they have any space. Boroughmuir rely on their stars Eoghann Dover and John Browne to carry the side offensively while Fury can get large contributions from a bunch of their players on any given day.
Fury will go into this one as favourites to win the game and strong favourites to secure the title in front of the Mariner crowd – the largest in the SBC. Here is the only scenario where Blaze could win their 2nd title in a row: Blaze defeat Fury by 17 points or more this weekend, win their 2 remaining games afterwards versus Glasgow University and Edinburgh University and hope that City of Edinburgh can defeat Fury again, this time at the Mariner in 2 weeks’ time.
Although the chances of all that happening are extremely unlikely, Blaze will continue to fight to retain their title until it is officially over. Fury will be looking to tie up the title this weekend which would be the second time they have won silverware over Blaze in just 2 weeks. One thing is for sure, the atmosphere will be electric on Friday night.
Sony Centre Fury Head Coach John Bunyan had this to say ahead of the critical game: ‘This week’s Blaze game is something we have targeted from the start of the season - the opportunity to win back the Championship title. To be able to do that against the team who took the title from us makes the game a bit special. Last week saw the return of our French forward Walter Lubeigt after being out for 2 months with an injury and he came through the game above anyone's expectations, so having him back in our squad is big for us. Eddy Leginus also showed great form for us last week against Glasgow University and it’s in the guard spot we need to be on top of our game, particularly in regard to controlling the game and decision making."
Bunyan added: "Blaze like to push teams into making unforced errors so limiting these situations is key to what could be our 4th title in 5 seasons. I know our fans will and have played a huge part in this and I know our team wants to repay them with a win on Friday."
Boroughmuir Blaze Captain Eoghann Dover was confident when speaking ahead of the game: "I’m really excited for the game, I think it'll be another close contest that could go either way. We enjoy playing at The Mariner on a Friday night as it's normally a great atmosphere. We're prepared for the offences that they are likely going to throw at us, and we know their personnel pretty well so we have gone over a few adjustments that we need to make from a couple weeks ago."
Dover spoke about his side's tactics: "I think the best way to stop Fury is to make sure we play our strong pressure defense and convert on our chances. We know how important this game is in terms of securing home court advantage in the playoffs so we go in to the game determined and focused."