‘Die trying’: Stefan Gill will put life on line for Manchester Giants’ play-off dream against London Lions

By Sarah Brook

The ultimate British basketball battle will hit our screens tonight as Manchester Giants fight it out on the court for their dream play-off spot against London Lions.

With a sell-out crowd, home-court advantage and nationally televised game, the BBL-new-boys head into the Wright Robinson College two points behind the away side.

Victory tonight would secure the final play-off spot for either team but point guard Stefan Gill admitted he will put his body on the line to get the win.

“We are going to win or I will die trying. Every time I put on the jersey and lace up my shoes, I am ready to give it everything,” Gill said.

“I am ultra-motivated about the game and I can’t even express how excited I am.

“A win for me is a step forward for us as a team. When I step out onto the court tonight, I will be proud to represent my city.”

With play-offs now resting on just one game, dynamic guard David Watts said he is thrilled to be part of the unique experience.

“A win would mean so much to me,” the England international said.

“To see us reach the play-offs in our first year would be a great accomplishment.

 “I would love to have our fans experience a play-off run. 

“Since pre-season our aim was the play-offs and now we have the chance to achieve that goal and I am sure we’ll fight for that chance.”

Giants – who have a game in hand over the Lions – are back to full health after a difficult few weeks of illness and injury and are prepared for their opponents.

With a lot at stake this evening for the Giants, Gill admitted coach Jeff Jones has told his players to seize the moment and play their own game.  

“This is our play-offs right now. There is no do-over,” Gill said.

“Many of us don’t know where we’ll be next year so I speak for us all when I say it’s imperative that we come out of the game at the end having left everything on the court. 

“Jeff has a good way with words and he’s very motivating. 

“He’s not really had to remind us how big of an opportunity this is but he always encourages us to enjoy the moment and remember why we play the game.” 

Home-advantage has proved key in the two games so far with Giants beating Lions in their first match of the season in Manchester, but losing on the road.

Although both teams field starting line-ups containing five players eligible for the Great Britain team, Gill admitted Giants will have the edge over their London rivals.

“Our team chemistry, basketball IQ, team defence and controlling the tempo of the game will make the difference tonight,” Gill added.

“Our pre-season goals are on the line. We aimed for this. It has been a hard journey but we now have the chance and we can’t wait to get out there and play,” Watts said. 

“London are a slashing team. They get to the basket well and attack the boards whereas we get out in transition and shoot the three better.”

Giants will then have to turn their focus to Sunday’s game against Durham Wildcats but Watts admitted the double-header does not faze his side.

“It won’t make a difference to us. We wanted this chance and now we have it and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

“We are aiming to close the season out in winning fashion. We owe it to our fans, everyone behind the scenes and ourselves.”

Picture courtesy of Jack Hinds Photography, with thanks

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