History will be made on Sunday in Birmingham when the Worcester Wolves battle the Cheshire Phoenix for the BBL Cup.
Throughout its 16 year history, neither the Wolves nor the Phoenix has been able to win the BBL Cup, that changes on Sunday.
Cheshire has been in this position once before, falling in the 2009/10 thriller 89-86 to the Sheffield Sharks who would repeat the next season. The Wolves have never made the BBL Cup Final, but have a pedigree in BBL Finals winning the Playoffs in the 2013/14 season.
Cheshire head into the contest led by leading scorer and dominant center CJ Gettys, who has been tough to handle for everyone in the league. Stopping the seven-footer will be a large part of the puzzle for Paul James’ side. If Gettys is stopped or slowed by the Wolves, Cheshire still has firepower in Raheem May-Thompson and Orlan Jackman who scored 23 points in his side’s semi-final thriller in London.
Led by the explosive guard George Beamon team leader in scoring and Dallin Bachynski the leader in boards, Worcester has the tools to score big and defend the threats from Cheshire. As a team the Wolves average 88 points per game, 5 points more than their opponents whilst limiting their opponents to 82 points per game, Cheshire concedes one point fewer.
The Wolves enter the game in incredible form, losing just once in their last 13 fixtures (away to the dominant Leicester Riders). Despite their recent form, the Wolves sit just one spot higher than Cheshire in the standings at 7th with a 9-6 record. Cheshire is two behind in the wins column at 7-6.
Cheshire’s recent form has been much streakier, entering the final on a three-game losing skid which included a home loss to the Wolves 90-97 in the Trophy. Cheshire sits in the final playoff spot with an above .500 record (it improves to 11-7 in all competitions) but with teams working hard to play CJ Gettys closer to the top of the key their recent form has dipped.
Cheshire punched their ticket to the Cup Final in remarkable circumstances but the journey was almost ended before it began with a tough road win at the Bristol Flyers 79-82. Cheshire’s quarterfinal round was no easier, edging past Newcastle, in Newcastle by a single point 79-80.
Cheshire’s semi-final opponents were the London Lions. The Lions were highly favoured and many assumed they were headed to Birmingham following their 87-74 win in Cheshire in the first leg. The Phoenix, led by 23 points from Orlan Jackman, had different ideas and roared back to crush the Lions at home with a final score of 83-67 clinching the tie 157-154.
Worcester’s route to the final was just as tough, but they made it look easy. Wolves avoided a potential banana peel as they easily beat Manchester Giants 101-80 before travelling north to Glasgow to take on the Rocks, led by GB internationals Achara and Murray. Worcester took the win by a large margin 85-97 to set up a semi-final date with three-time champions Sheffield Sharks.
The Sharks had a mountain to climb after the first leg as the Wolves took a ten point lead 102-92 into Sheffield. Worcester kept pushing and came out with a 16 point aggregate win (172-157) following a very solid 6 point victory in Sheffield.
Neutrals everywhere will be hoping for a close contest but the Wolves have the potential to blow it open early if they can lock down Gettys and get Beamon and Bachynski firing. Cheshire has shown time and again that they can come back from tough spots and beat bigger highly favoured sides.
This game could easily go either way but, the way the Wolves are playing at the moment it is difficult to look past them. Wolves should take the win, but it will be close.