Heat Host Champions
20 April 2012
Guildford Heat round off their regular season in style on Sunday as they host the newly-crowned BBL Champions, the Newcastle Eagles, before beginning preparations for the play-offs.
Just as the Heat qualified for the play-offs when the only team that could stop them (in this case, the Milton Keynes Lions) lost, so the Eagles clinched the Championship when the only team that could stop them (the Plymouth Raiders) also lost. Both teams then seemed to relax and went on to lose games that most thought they would win.
The Heat and Eagles come into Sunday's game at different ends of the play-off spectrum and as potential first round rivals. If things go badly for the Heat in the Championship's final weekend, they could find themselves dropping to eighth spot and facing the Eagles once again, this time over two legs in the first round of the play-offs. Alternatively, if the Heat win at Leicester on Saturday and other results go their way, they could find themselves looking to beat Newcastle in order to move up to seventh or even sixth in the BBL Championship and facing either the Worcester Wolves or Plymouth Raiders in the first round.
The Eagles are the model of a successful franchise and it was a great surprise last season when they failed to win any of the BBL’s four competitions. However, they have made up for it with a vengeance this season! To add to the BBL Championship, they have already secured the BBL Cup and BBL Trophy and are looking to add the Play-off Title, which would give the Eagles their second ever sweep of all four competitions and the first in the BBL since the Eagles did it the first time in 2005-06.
This is, of course, the Heat's third and final meeting with the Eagles and they are looking to avoid a second successive season sweep. Of all the teams in the BBL, the Heat have had the least success against the Eagles, although Coach Creon remains optimistic, believing that his side matches up well with the Champions.
Although the Heat lost heavily when the two sides met in Newcastle at the start of the BBL campaign, that was the old-look Heat. When they met again in December, at the Surrey Sports Park, it was a much closer affair. In a game featuring 20 lead-changes and nine ties, Heat were within two points, 70-72, with under two minutes to go. However, a controversial unsportsmanlike foul against Shaun Durant, who looked to have accidentally tripped the Eagles' Andrew Bridge, gave the momentum to the Eagles. They went on to close out the game from the line, going 8-8 in the last 90 seconds, having gone 11-20 in the rest of the match.
That, of course, was a Heat team without centre Frank Holmes and with Drew Lasker still working his way into the line-up. With the Heat line-up settled, Coach Creon is confident that his side will give the Eagles a run for their money.
The game also represents a chance for Tayo Ogedengbe to set a club record. He goes into the weekend as the club's leading scorer, narrowly ahead of Martelle McLemore. He is also the BBL's leader in free-throws attempted at 197 and needs just three more trips to the line to become the first Heat player since the great Brian Dux in 2006-07 to attempt 200 or more free-throws in the Championship. Brian went to the line 227 times in 36 games, an average of 6.3 per game. Tayo has made his 197 trips in just 28 games. While he is very unlikely to surpass Brian's total, he is attempting an average of 7.0 free throws per game and even if he fails to take a single free-throw all weekend, he will set a new club record for free-throws attempted per game.
The game tips off at 3 o'clock at the Surrey Sports Park on Sunday 22nd April. You can get your tickets by calling the Heat Box Office on 01483 689111 or through the online Surrey Sports Park Box Office. And don't forget that to round everything off, the annual End of Season event is after the game. It starts at 6pm at the Surrey Sports Park and includes the famous shirt auction. Entry is just £2 for adults and £1 for children.