Big match-ups in Flow basketball semi-finals
The battle for places in the 2012 FLOW/National Basketball League (NBL) final begins this evening with the playing of game one in the best-of-three semi-finals series at the National Stadium courts.
In the first game at 6:00 pm, former winners Urban Knights will square off with St George's Slayers, while in the second game at 8:00 pm, defending champion Tivoli Wizards take on South Conference winners Runnin Rebels.
In the preliminary round, Urban Knight got the better of the Slayers and are in the superior form at this stage of the season.
However, the Rohan Robinson-coached Slayers are as good as any on the day and if players like Michael Jackson, Paul Oliphant, Leon Chung, Noel Wright and Ricardo Hunt play true to form, the Knights will be in for a difficult evening.
However, the Knights who had to adjust to new coach Oneil Brown at the start of the season and overcome a slow start to the campaign, will start favourites for this contest.
The former champion lost the South conference title to high-riding Runnin Rebels, but remained confident of their chances to go all the way.
Brown believes his players are mentally and physically ready for the challenge and are looking for a winning start to the series.
The Knights hopes will rest on Oneil Mundle, Fernando Young, Andre Murray, Dave Blackwood, Ian Gooden and Kwame Lawrence.
The other semi-final between Tivoli Wizards and Runnin Rebels seems evenly poised. However, based on experience Tivoli will have the edge going into the contest despite Rebels beating them in the regular season.
The west-Kingston-based Tivoli have won the title over the last two seasons, but this appears to be the most difficult defence of their title.
But coach Edward Marshall is confident that his charges will retain the title despite the team not being as strong as the two previous years.
They will look to last season's MVP Anthony Farquaharson, the irrepressible Omar Barnes and Andy Smith to lead them to victory.
Their opponents Runnin Rebels have justified their tag as one of the pre-season favourites after a number of big signings at the start of the season.
The Pete Matthews-coached team started slowly, but picked up momentum during the season and capped off a fine regular season with victory over Urban Knights in the South Conference final.
Following that win over the Knights, Matthews now believes the Rebels can win the championship, especially with arguably the league's best player, Kemar McLeish, leading the charge.
McLeish should be well supported by Omari Green, Rodney Wiggan, Kemo Gordon, Jermaine Remekie and Paron Brown.
Game two in the series is scheduled for tomorrow at the same venue.