Basketball: Leicester Riders must banish hurt and focus on league bid
When you are looking to get over a difficult defeat in a major final, going to the other team's celebration party is not the ideal way to go about it.
But that is exactly what Leicester Riders have to do tonight as they travel to Sheffield Sharks (7.30).
Only four days on from their heartbreaking 71-69 defeat to the Sharks in the BBL Trophy final in Glasgow, being on hand for Sheffield's triumphant homecoming is not how Riders would have picked the fixtures.
"I don't know," said coach Rob Paternostro when asked if it was a good or bad thing ahead of tonight's league clash.
"It is a little strange how the schedule works out, but we have so many games during the next month that it doesn't matter who we are playing, we have got to play well because all teams are getting better at this time of year.
"It's important that we learn from how we have played in the past and get better."
Riders will have to put the disappointment of Saturday behind them as they play four games in the next week that are as pivotal to their league title chances as they are difficult.
"We had a long ride back from Glasgow to think about that game and that loss, it was a tough loss," said Paternostro.
"But ever since we've been back we've been fully focused on the league.
"All of us, as coaches and players, have in our time had to deal with difficult losses and have had to bounce back, and we're ready to bounce back now."
If Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders can win their next four games, then by a week today they will be in a commanding position at the top of the table.
But as the next three games are against Sharks – the team that just beat them in the Trophy final, and Surrey Heat and Plymouth Raiders – the only two teams to get the better of them in the league this season, it is far from straightforward.
Capped off in the run is the huge title showdown against Newcastle at John Sandford next Wednesday. The Eagles lost a third consecutive home game last Friday, allowing Riders to stay on top of the table despite not playing a league game.
The pair are locked together on 40 points, but Riders have played two matches less and will have played those games in hand by the time the sides meet next week.
A four-point cushion would give Riders pole position going into that massive contest, but first of all they have to find a way to get three wins in five days.
"Looking at what we have left to do, we have to put a lot of wins on the board," said Paternostro. "We haven't lost a league game since the middle of December, this group is used to winning, so we expect to go out there tonight and play well in the league."
Riders: Okoro, Couisnard, Stewart, Sullivan, Calvo, Hopkins, Taylor, Anderson, Washington, Lamble, Haggith, Gould, Dawes, Maynard, Losonsky, Rowe.
Sharks: Brownell, Gordon, Holmes, Lewis, Gachette, Tuck, Babalola, Jemison, Sing, Bridge.