Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Defending champions Tivoli Gardens Wizards and Runnin' Rebels will clash in Game One of their best-of-three semi-finals in the Flow/National Basketball League (NBL) today at the National Stadium Courts, starting at 8 p.m.
In the opening game of the double-header, former champions Urban Knights will battle St George's Slayers in Game One of their best-of-three semi-finals, starting at 6 p.m.
The Wizards, who are seeking their third consecutive hold on the island's premier basketball trophy, will enter today's semi-final oozing confidence, after they secured their place in the semis with an easy 94-60 win over Eastern Conference winners Pure Playaz.
However, Edward 'Ted' Marshall, coach of the Wizards who were beaten by the Rebels in the preliminary round of the competition, said they will be seeking a comprehensive victory.
"Game One is very important for both teams and I think that we have to go out there and pull it off tomorrow (today)," said Marshall. "We are looking forward to playing against this team (Rebels) because the first time we played them they beat us and so we won't give them that chance again," he said.
Marshall added: "I am confident that we can win this series, but we have to execute our game plan and also play a lot of team defence."
One of the key matchups in today's game will be that between the Rebels' national representative Kemar McLeish and the Wizards' Omar Barnes at the point guard position. Both are two of the best players in the league.
The Wizards' Andy Smith will go up against Omari Green, while Rebels' Dave Black and Maurice Blackwood will challenge each other at centre.
The Pete Matthews-coached Rebels secured their spot in the semi-final with an exciting 77-72 overtime victory over Granville Jaguars.
"We beat them in the regular season, but this is the play-offs and so it is going to be a completely different ball game tomorrow (today)," said McLeish.
"However, we are confident that we can beat them because we are currently on a high and know we are this year's Southern Conference champions," McLeish said.
He added: "I think that everybody knows Tivoli style of ball game, which is to score a lot of second chance points, and I believe that once we are able to keep them off the boards then we should be able to come out on top in this series."
The second game in the series will be played on Sunday at the same venue.