It’s only happened four times in BBL history. Sunday would only be a start. But can Mersey Tigers join a most elite club by sweeping up every piece of silverware in their path?

“We’re not hungry,” declares forward Tafari Toney. What? Seriously? Hold on. “We’re starving. We want everything.”

The Liverpool outfit, rebranded from Everton last summer, have an opportunity which no-one else, including Cup final opponents Sheffield Sharks, possesses. Atop the league with a 12-2 record, awaiting a Trophy semi with Newcastle later this month, Tony Garbelotto’s side have made themselves a class apart so far this term.

“They’re good, really good,” noted one opposition coach recently. And despite the freak loss to Plymouth last weekend – when a side minus three of their biggest performers almost held serve – the Tigers are already talking about the potential of the quadruple.

Drew Sullivan has helped tighten Mersey's defence

They’re good enough aren’t they? The best defensive unit in the BBL with talent and experience at every position. Forget the oft-mentioned fact that the entire roster is British-qualified. It’s the business-like approach which has stood out most over the past four months.

“We’re not afraid to tell each other what we need to do,” Toney reveals. “We have people yelling at each other every single day at practice. Even at a little shootaround, we get at each other like it’s a game and that carries onto the floor.”

Don’t see their intent as a sign of disrespect for Sheffield. As the cliché goes, it remains one game at a time. But how many sides have been able to bring a Great Britain starter off the bench in recent times? With Nate Reinking set to shake off a calf injury in time to make his mark in Birmingham, there’s no reason for caution, merely achievable goals.

“I’ve said it every season,” says Garbelotto. “We go into every season with the goal to compete for each trophy. That’s not changed. After the first two weeks of the season, and with the signing of Nate, we realised we had a special group of players.

“It’s on us. We control our own destiny. We are the only team with the ability to win all four trophies. But it has to be one step at a time. We’re not thinking about Newcastle and Cheshire this week, just the Cup. “

Facing the Cup holders will be a trip into the unknown of sorts. Sheffield and Mersey have yet to cross paths this season. Over the Tigers brief history, the head to head is split 5-5. As a form guide, it counts for nothing.

“We’ve played everyone else,” Toney states. “It feels like we’ve seen Worcester seven times. Playing a new team means new strategies so we have to go out and do what we need to do defensively and offensively.”

For Garbelotto, ever prepared to the max, the scheduling quirk is one he could happy do without.

“For my teams, that’s a disadvantage,” he insists. “We’re at our best when we’re tendency-driven and when we have a feel for a team. That applies to me as a coach. You can scout a team face to face but until you’re on the sideline, seeing how they run, how they build their tempo, what play calls they run at certain times, it’s hard.”

Ultimately of course, Atiba Lyons has exactly the same problem.

Thompson is hugely under-rated

That won’t be the focus of Mersey’s concerns, not with destiny calling. The BBL Cup has traditionally been a reward for the side who have flourished most over the first half of the campaign.

Yet, by Sunday evening, there will be still be three prizes to be obtained before May is out. Neither the Sharks and Tigers need reminding that, in the past two years, each came blasting out of the traps at full tilt, only to be overtaken by Newcastle on the home straight for the prize which matters most: the league championship.

Mersey, with its stellar front court of Toney, Drew Sullivan and the massively under-rated Andy Thompson, seem equipped not to slip as they did in the 2008-09 campaign. Then, a side marshalled by Richard Midgley and corralled by Andre Smith utterly destroyed Plymouth 103 – 49 in the most lop-sided Cup final in history.

That became a false dawn. Garbelotto & Co. will want no repeat. Consistency, trust and focus gradually ebbed away then. The current edition is a different creature, not stronger perhaps but with older heads who understand what it takes to last the course.

“Maybe individually, this team is better,” argues James Jones, one of the few survivors of that Raiders demolition. “But it’s not as deep.

“That (08/09) team went legitimately ten deep.  It was a bit of a disappointment that after we won the Cup against Plymouth that we didn’t come away with more trophies.

“Hopefully, we can win on Sunday and then win more.”

Anything less, would be a disappointment within.

BBL Cup Final: Sheffield v Mersey, Sky Sports 3 (3.30pm). Updates on MVP.

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