Basketball: Leicester Riders will have to perform at top level in BBL Trophy final
Leicester Riders go in search of their second title of the season today when they take on Sheffield Sharks in the BBL Trophy Final at Glasgow's Emirates Arena (3.30).
Unlike the final in January or even the play-off final last May, when Riders took on Newcastle Eagles on both occasions, they will head into this encounter as favourites against a Sharks side who are 22-points behind them in the BBL Championship table.
"I don't pay attention to that at all," said Rob Paternostro. "When you go into a final everybody thinks they have a great shot to win.
"The last two finals we were in we felt the same way as we do now, which is we have to play well on the day to win.
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"It doesn't matter who you are playing in a final, when you get there you are going to have to perform on the day to win.
"We're going into this game knowing we have to play at a high level, there is no doubt about that.
"We have the same approach as we did in Birmingham against Newcastle, the same exact feeling as a team. Everyone understands how we have to play to win."
The Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders have beaten Sheffield four times this season, all by double-figures and three times by 20-points or more.
However, while the most recent of those games finished 72-51, for the first three quarters it was very much in the balance before Riders pulled away in the last 12 minutes.
Either side of that defeat last month, the Sharks won five games as they bolstered their play-off credentials and reached this final.
"I think they have improved over the last two months," said Paternostro. "When you look at their personnel there is a lot of talent on the floor, but it's not just that, they have a good balance of inside and outside guys.
"The other thing they possess is veteran players who have been in these types of games before and that is really important."
Part of that experience includes several members of the 2011 Cup-winning squad when the Sharks stunned the BBL with a 93-66 thumping of Mersey, who were then league leaders and probably bigger favourites than Riders are today.
Sheffield's fortunes this season have tended to fluctuate with their three-point shooting.
When they are efficient from behind the arc they have the ability to put enough points on the board to win games. But when they struggle with their threes, their offence splutters.
That will be a focus for Paternostro and his team, as will be stopping Sheffield from getting free efforts from 15 feet.
He said, "We always key on making every shot difficult for the opponent, whether that's from the three-point line or the interior.
"Our message continues to be, especially after what happened last weekend, to keep teams off the free-throw line."
Riders: Okoro, Couisnard, Stewart, Sullivan, Calvo, Hopkins, Taylor, Anderson, Washington, Lamble, Haggith, Gould, Dawes, Maynard, Losonsky, Rowe.
Sharks: Brownell, Gordon, Williams, Holmes, Lewis, Gachette, Tuck, Babalola, Jemison, Sing, Bridge.