By James Thomson
Thursday 27 Feb 2020 13:09:00
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Teesside Lions are aiming to bounce back against Sunderland this Sunday after their slip against Stockport last week. The Tees-Wear derby will provide another stage for some great basketball and the Lions fans will be looking forward to cheering on their team following recognition at Great Britain’s 81-73 victory over Germany at Newcastle, for their loud and proud cheering which could be heard on live TV beamed across Europe.

The majority of the crowd took a while to get going and towards the end developed into a raucous atmosphere as a packed Eagles Community Arena roared their country on to a memorable win for interim Head Coach and adopted North Easterner Marc Stuetel.

Lions director Martin Anderson was proud of the Lions presence at the game and said: “We are fortunate to have so many good fans who provide a sixth man effect. To have developed such a big and positive following in such a short period of time is even more impressive. We are adding to this all the time and I would like to think at some stage in the near future we will be able to fill the 1200 capacity at Eston.

“We have to hope the sore throats are fully healed ahead of Sunderland as it will be another tough contest with a team we lost to in the away fixture.”

The loss at home to Stockport will serve as a stern reminder that there is no room for complacency. Sunderland most recently beat Cheshire Wire 78-63 and while a win against the league’s bottom team may have been expected, the Sunderland University based team have already beaten Lions 90-67 in November at City Space. A dynamic start from the hosts blitzed the Lions 30-14 in the first quarter and Teesside were unable to recover.

Sunderland traditionally begin games well and score an average of 19pts in the first period, more than any other over the season.In fact they have scored 25+ on six occasions and hit 37pts in the first period against Liverpool.

Well aware of this danger Teesside Coach James Thomson has identified the first quarter as crucial, adding: “We know from first-hand experience the affect a good start can have on the game. Sunderland delivered a killer blow in November and this must not be allowed to happen again. We are fully focussed on restricting their opportunity to develop a lead at any point, but critically in the first quarter.”

Sunderland Coach Brian Cochrane has a good balance of attacking options with the size of Lithuanian big man Justas Seselgis inside and the range of sharp shooters Jai Naylor, Lukas Butvilas and Justin Loblack, the trio that caused Lions problems in the reverse fixture.

For Coach Thomson, he will be without Patrick Gnagbo as the big man serves his final game suspension, while Tommy Devitt and Joe Lister are also unavailable. Coach Thomson has indicated Martin Fell could be the key in this fixture with the skilful guard enjoying a great 2020 and excellent game against Stockport. Fell is a former Sunderland captain and will be keen to help Lions back to winning ways, especially against his previous club.

Lions Forward Chris Jackman also enjoyed a good performance against Stockport and is urging the team to prepare for battle, adding:

“We have to want this more than them. We ran out of steam in the Stockport game and at times didn’t follow the game plan, so we only have ourselves to blame. Four weeks without a game did not help our cause and this was evident in the slow start. Coach Thomson has reiterated the importance of a strong start, especially against Sunderland so whoever is on the floor better be prepared to play smart and battle. I don’t want to lose another game.”

Battle is set to commence at Eston Leisure Centre this Sunday with a tip of 3pm. Spectators are advised to arrive between 2-2.30pm and tickets can be purchased online at priced at just £6 adults and £4 u18s.

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