LIONS V ST HELENS + DURHAM UNI | PREVIEW
After the success of last weekend’s doubleheader in Bristol, the Teesside Lions have another challenging weekend scheduled.
The visit of Durham University for an important friendly takes place on Sunday at Eston Arena but prior to this the Lions travel to St Helens on Saturday for a league encounter with the second placed Saints.
Teesside returned with two vital wins away to Bristol, with a 14pt win over Bristol United on Saturday was followed by a 4pt victory over Flyers II on Sunday. Lions Coach Serge Bojev is keen to keep the run going and is aware of the threat both St Helens and Durham pose.
“We are still catching up with delayed games, and they are going to come thick and fast with multiple double headers. We were successful with our first test in Bristol but we need to prepare for the rest of the season.” Said Coach Bojev.
These thoughts were echoed by Coach Thomson who added:
“We have another double header and it’s important we can get used to these as we will have at least two more with important league games. While the priority is clearly the league game on Saturday, we need the home game for the continuity, and also want to be back in front of the fans.
“The team is healthy now in terms of numbers and the opportunity to run the squad on Sunday will be a useful exercise.”
St Helens Saints sit comfortably in second place in NBL Division Two, with a 9-2 record, and have won their last five matches with relative ease.
They are led by the prolific scoring of former British Basketball League forward Connor Murtagh, who is averaging an impressive 28 points per game in his third season with the Saints.
Teesside will be without 6’7 forward Arran Baxter but Luke Mitchell will return to the team after missing the Bristol weekend.
St Helens will be the favourites ahead of Saturday and will be seeking revenge following the playoff semi-final defeat in 2022, the only time the two sides have met.
There will however be cautious respect from St Helens with Teesside raising eyebrows in many games this season including a near win whilst vastly understrength at current leaders Bristol Hurricanes and a near win against third placed Manchester Magic. Teesside will have to be at their best, but there is a confident mood in the club and recent wins and importantly performances have given the team a boost.
There are no major injury concerns ahead of the weekend, and the coaching team will be hoping for a good week of training ahead of selection.
Manny Kabengele is settling in nicely following his return while Faaris Mughal earned MVP in his third game as a Lion at Flyers.
Coach Bojev stressed the importance of more game time to assist the team chemistry, adding:
“It is no coincidence that the more we train and play, the more we develop chemistry. We signed three important players halfway through the season and it is vital we can integrate them as soon as possible so they are good for the team and the team is good for them.
“We have already seen the benefits from each, but there is so much more to come from them and the other squad members. The Durham game therefore is an important opportunity to speed up this cohesion.”
Durham have been one of the best teams within the highly competitive BUCS University programmes for many years now and have a highly talented squad of local and overseas talents. The team boast at least five American stars along with known players such as Carl Alexander who spent a season with Teesside two years ago.
Other players to watch are former D2 league winner with Birmingham Rockets Christian Prince. The 6’8 forward helped Birmingham achieve promotion to division one last season.
Fellow Americans Nathan Hendler and Jeremiah Testa provide a productive scoring and creative combination. Hendler has good shooting range while Testa is proving one of the best players in BUCS.
Lions’ three recent additions will be on show again in front of the home crowd after their impressive performances down in Bristol and another opportunity for the Teesside fans to watch what should be a great and entertaining game of basketball.
Tickets for Sunday’s game are on sale now at TeessideLions.com
Purchase now and enjoy an afternoon of non-stop, family orientated sporting action.
Teesside Lions v Durham Uni
Sunday 21 Jan | 2.30pm Tip
Eston Arena TS6 9AE
Spectators are encouraged to come and watch the prior game from 12.15 as Lions U12 team take on BBL side Sheffield Sharks on the main court. This game is free of charge and a good opportunity to watch the next generation of talent coming through the production line at Teesside Lions.