Basketball: This is the one that everyone wants to see, says Leicester Riders coach Rob Paternostro
Leicester Riders head coach Rob Paternostro believes the BBL Cup final on Sunday is the match all basketball fans in the country are looking forward to.
Riders take on Newcastle Eagles at the National Indoor Arena, in Birmingham, in a rematch of last season's Play-off final.
It was a game in which Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders dominated for much of the first half, only for the Eagles to stage a big comeback to secure the win and complete a clean sweep of the domestic trophies.
"Sunday's final is the one everyone is talking about," said Paternostro. "Newcastle have been so dominant in recent years, but Riders have now become a consistent challenger.
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"We look back at last May's final and see our free-throw shooting was really the only difference between the teams, and I believe we will have learned from that.
"Both teams have been going well this season and are top of the Championship, and are bang in form.
"It should be a very tight, physical and emotional game, featuring perhaps the best two defensive teams in the BBL."
The 40-year-old coach has huge respect for what Newcastle have achieved.
"When you look around British sport, it is hard to see a team that has been so consistently good in recent years, you have to admire it," said Paternostro
"They have built a core of guys who know how to win, and consistently deliver a very high level of performance. We all know that is not easy. Eagles have a patent on it."
Paternostro also has tremendous admiration for Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy.
"Hats off to Fab," he said. "He is the heart and controlling mind of the team.
"He sets the tone, and he is vastly underestimated as a player. The experts will say a player-coach role is almost impossible, but Fab has turned it into a plus.
"As a side-line coach, I can preach intensity, but Fab can go out there and remind his guys, during the game, what it really means.
"He has brought a unique talent to this very difficult position."
Paternostro also knows that Eagles have multiple weapons.
"You look at their team and the big guns recently have been the timeless Charles Smith and Joe Chapman," he said.
"But injuries recently have allowed their new signings, point-guard Damon Huffman and Kareem Maddox, to shine.
"We know it will not be about shutting down one or two guys. It will be about every Rider doing his job, both defensively and making a contribution at the offensive end."
Paternostro will be hoping Riders can replicate their 75-63 league win against the Eagles in October – their first victory in Tyneside for 15 years.
"That game counts for nothing," said Paternostro. "It was a long time ago, and both teams have changed since then.
"But it is a nice memory and we know the Eagles are beatable. It is about delivering a performance on the big stage."
Paternostro is looking for a boost from the Riders faithful.
"They were just fantastic last May, have been hugely supportive again this season, and I know they will be coming to Birmingham in their numbers," he said.
"We have not been beaten at home for nearly a year – it is about taking some of that home atmosphere to Birmingham. It could be a decisive factor."