With five weeks of the Sal’s National Basketball League regular season remaining, Saturday night’s clash between the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks and Tasmania’s Southern Huskies looms as key as both teams push for a place in July’s Final 4.
The Sharks got their season back on track over the last fortnight with solid victories home and away over the Supercity Rangers and have re-claimed fourth place on the NBL Points Table. The Huskies meanwhile missed an opportunity to leap-frog the Sharks, dropping both games in a home double-header against the Canterbury Rams last weekend, but still sit just one win behind the Sharks in fifth.
Although there is still a lot of basketball to be played, the Sharks’ two games against the Huskies scheduled for ILT Stadium Southland over the next three weeks (this Saturday and Friday 5th July), will likely determine their Final 4 aspirations.
No one knows this more than Head Coach Judd Flavell.
“We’ve got our backs against the wall and the Huskies are in the same position as us, so this is the game of the season for us. Then, next week will be the same mindset. We aren’t going to take a breath right now, we can’t afford to do that so we have been on the practice court this week, going at each other, all building to what should be a good one on Saturday,” Flavell said.
There has been a noticeable lift in intensity at Sharks training over recent weeks as the side steels itself for the Finals run. Coach Flavell has consistently beaten the drum that it all starts for the Sharks at the defensive end and he was buoyed by the way his side hit key defensive targets they had put in place during last weekend’s Rangers victory.
Sharks’ star Dom Kelman-Poto wants more of the same this week.
“We played great defence last week and it shows what we can do. We’ve just got to come out with the same intensity this week and step on their (The Huskies’) throats first,” Kelman-Poto said.
The Sharks will be aided in their cause by the absence of Huskies’ captain Craig Moller who is on tour in China with an Australian NBL representative team. They can still call on a strong core, headlined by Tre Nichols and Jalen Billups along with former League MVP Marcel Jones. They also face a challenging road trip, playing the Canterbury Rams for a third successive time this evening in Christchurch, before flying south tomorrow morning.
The Sharks will start as favourites at home, but with both sides knowing the importance of this one, expect a titanic battle. Tip off at ILT Stadium Southland is 7:00pm.