Basketball: Blaze and Kings have key players back for final

Edinburgh Kings coach Craig Nicol
Edinburgh Kings coach Craig Nicol
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Boroughmuir Blaze and City of Edinburgh Kings are both having to recover from heavy weekend defeats as they prepare for tomorrow night’s Scottish Basketball Cup Final at Oriam, while recent form bodes well for Edinburgh University in Sunday’s women’s final with Lady Rocks.

Blaze and Kings met on league business at The Crags Centre last Friday, and although Kings were convincing 90-62 winners, neither Blaze captain Eoghann Dover nor Kings coach Craig Nicol are reading too much into that result.

“Blaze did very well against us earlier in the season, beating us 70-57 in October and exposing a lot of our weaknesses,” pointed out Nicol. “We had a very good result last weekend, but we know they had one or two key players missing. We had a plan and, full credit to the guys, they executed it superbly at both ends of the court. The result was a good one, but we don’t read too much into it. We’ve got to try and do the same thing again on Saturday, but we’re expecting a much closer contest this time. Anything can happen in a Cup Final and recent form goes out the window. We’ve been performing at a high level in recent weeks and we’ll need to be at our very best again to have a chance of winning the club’s eighth Scottish Cup (their first since 2013).”

Kings’ ten-game winning streak was emphatically ended when they lost by 20 points in Paisley last Sunday, and Nicol reflected: “We were a little bit fatigued, playing two games in two days, but we knew how important it was and yet we didn’t play anywhere near our best. It’s looking unlikely that we’ll win the league now, but it’s good that we have an immediate opportunity to bounce back from last Sunday.

“We’re at full strength for the Final. We have 14 guys vying for selection and I can only pick 12, so it’s a difficult one for me. Every member of the team came through our youth development programme and we’re extremely proud of that. I don’t know the last time a team won a major Scottish title with 100 per cent home-grown talent. It’s a testament to everyone at our club that we’ve got to this point.”

Blaze skipper Dover is aiming to go one better than last year when Boroughmuir were beaten in the Final by Falkirk Fury. “We’re pretty well-prepared for the Final, much better than we were last week!” he laughed. “We were missing a few of our bigger players then and we just didn’t turn up, but we’ve kind of brushed that off and refocused for Saturday’s game. I think that defeat has revitalised everyone here because we didn’t give a good account of ourselves and we want to go out on Saturday and show what a good team we are. You often play your best basketball when the pressure’s on and hopefully we can do that. Winning the league may be beyond us, but we’re definitely looking to win the Cup and get a place in the end-of-season play-offs. We’ll have all the injured guys back, so we’re at full strength. They’ve been looking good in training and it’s great to have them back.”

Ahead of Sunday afternoon’s women’s final, Edinburgh University are hoping that the form book won’t be torn up because it clearly favours them rather than their opponents Lady Rocks. While Lady Rocks have lost three of their four league games since last month’s Cup semi-finals, the students have won all three and are unbeaten since late-October. Two weeks ago, they beat Rocks 72-53 in Cumbernauld Coach Jordan Webb would happily settle for more of the same on Sunday.