Top-seeded Myerscough opens up EABL Playoffs against CoLA

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PRESTON, Lancs. — Top-seeded Myerscough opens up the 2018 EABL Playoffs against No. 4 seed City of London Academy on Thursday after being crowned the outright conference champions in the regular season.

Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup is the second-straight season the two will meet at this stage in the playoffs with Myerscough having claimed a 74-58 win last March. Sco is looking to advance to its fifth consecutive Final Four.

“Nothing is going to change to our mindset,” said Myerscough head coach Neal Hopkins. “We’ve gotten here playing our style of basketball and we’ve got to remember that and continue it — we’ve got a formula that works so if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

“These guys are winners and have shown that throughout the course of the season. We’ve gone down to Charnwood and won the league under tough circumstances and from the Derby game onwards the guys have played with a different kind of fight and desire.”

Myerscough (12-1, 11-1) enters postseason riding an eight-game league win streak and locked up home-court advantage throughout following its win over Charnwood on Monday. CoLA (8-6), meanwhile, is 2-3 over its last five games.

Last time out

Konrad Kantorski (32 points) and Mate Okros (29 points) both posted season-highs, as Myerscough raced past Charnwood 92-76 on Monday. Edoardo Del Cadia added 17 points in the win in which Myerscough never trailed.

CoLA slipped to the fourth seed in the East Conference following a 67-64 defeat against Itchen.

Last meeting

Myerscough advanced past CoLA in the 2017 EABL Playoffs with Kantorski leading the way with 23 points. Spas Nikolov, (20 points & 10 rebounds, Ayo Nuwe (16 & 11 rebounds) and Zion Tordoff (11 points & 14 rebounds) all added double-doubles in the win. Gedi Juozapaitis led CoLA’s attack with an efficient 20 points, but James Mitchell was the only other to reach double-figures scoring finishing with 11.

What to watch

Defensive intensity

Command + V. It’s where the offence begins for Myerscough, with an average of 22.7 points coming off opponent turnovers. Sco is creating 13.2 steals and has held teams under 80 points in 11 of 12 games this season, including under 70 in nine.

Rayon Brown has been a potent figure in halting offences since his return from injury and leads the team with over three steals per game and is chipping in nearly six points a contest.

“Our defence has a big impact — when we lock in and communicate we show no fear,” said Brown. “I feel I can help bring an extra intensity at the end.”

Stay hot from 3-point range

Command + V. Myerscough knocked down 11 3-pointers against Charnwood, which is the fourth time this season it has eclipsed double figures from distance. Kantorski leads the team with 38 made threes and has hit at least four in eight games this season — he connected on six against Loreto on Jan. 24.

Myerscough is connecting on over 37 percent of its 3-pointers and at the opposite end of the spectrum is holding teams to a miniscule 23 percent from distance.

Who to watch

Myerscough: Mate Okros

Mate Okros has scored in double-figures in 10 of 11 games he’s played in this season and has two 20-point games, including a 29 points at Charnwood.

“I just keep reminding myself to have the confidence in what I can do on the court to help give the team the best possible chance to win,” he said.

Okros scored 12 of Myerscough’s opening 16 points on Monday and hit a trio of threes in key stretches of the game.

CoLA: Peter Turay

Peter Turay is averaging 12.9 points per game and is the second leading scorer for the second-highest rated defensive team in the league. Turay, who ranks 10th in the league two-point field goal percentage, is grabbing 10 rebounds per game — 4.7 of which are coming at the offensive end of the court.

Game notes

Game time is set for 3 p.m. at the Myerscough College High Performance Centre.

Allen Gunn is a graduate of the University of Salford with a Masters degree in Journalism.