Ian Smith hit 29 points to lead Solent against Bristol
Solent Kestrels will aim to become the first non-BBL team to play major final when they meet Bristol Flyers in the Trophy semi-final second leg on Sunday.
Leading 103-67 from the first leg, Solent will be strong favourites to reach next month’s final in Glasgow, against Newcastle or Cheshire.
“The whole club is riding that wave of emotion from Wednesday,” said Solent coach Matt Guymon.
“It’s now just a case of keeping our guys focused on the task in hand.”
The Kestrels, who knocked out last season’s league champions London Lions in the Trophy first round, beat south-coast NBL rivals Worthing – who themselves had beaten the BBL’s Manchester Giants in the first round – to become the first non-league team to reach a BBL semi-final.
They beat Cup finalists Bristol convincingly, sealing victory with five three-pointers in a 20-9 streak in the final quarter to hand the Flyers their second-biggest defeat of the season in all competitions.
Gentrey Thomas and Bristol Flyers have a 36-point deficit to overcome if they are to make a second BBL final this season
“I felt with the way we’ve been playing that we could definitely compete with them – that maybe on our home floor, we might be able to edge it,” said Guymon. “But no, I never thought that we would win it as convincingly as we did.”
The Kestrels are unbeaten in 16 games, winning by an average 32 points, in the National Basketball League. Throw in their five wins en route to hoisting the National Cup and three in the Trophy and they are 24-0 for the season.
“Our last loss was in February of last season – we’ve had a tremendous run,” said Guymon. “It comes down to the core group of guys we’ve kept from last season – they’re incredibly driven, focused, performance athletes.”
After beating Worthing, Guymon added an extra work permit player, American former Leicester forward TrayVonn Wright – a Play-offs MVP with the Riders – for the semi-final, as allowed in the BBL’s rules.
“We thought ‘we’re in a semi-final, let’s see if we can win it’,” said Guymon. “TrayVonn was local and available and gave us some much-needed depth on the front line to match Bristol.
BBL Trophy semis
- Sun 16 Feb: Bristol v Solent (1st Leg 67-103)
- Sun 1 Mar: Newcastle v Cheshire (1st Leg 88-79)
“Bristol are going to come back, they’re on their home court and they get great crowds there. So it’s a case of managing things and not changing too much – going in with the same mentality as the first game.”
A place in the Trophy final in Glasgow on March 15 would be new ground for the National League, but even winning it might not convince the Kestrels to apply to join the top league.
“At the heart of everything we do, we’ve got a very large youth and junior programme,” said Guymon. “We created a men’s team eight or nine years ago just to give our 18-year-old players an option to play Division Three basketball.”
“We’re very aspirational and we’ll look at it, but it has to work within that infrastructure.”