Mersey Tigers captain Drew Sullivan will be fit to lead the team out at the O2 Arena for the BBL Trophy Final against Guildford Heat on Saturday.

Sullivan, 31, sat out Sunday’s victory over Essex Pirates and only featured briefly during Friday’s defeat against Plymouth Raiders at the John Amaechi Centre in Manchester.

The Great Britain star had suffered an injury in training last week, and coach Tony Garbelotto was keen not to risk the injury as the Tigers hunt victory in their second cup final appearance of the season.

Garbelotto said: “Drew will be back for the final. He could have played thirty minutes on Friday, and had we been playing a Sheffield or a Newcastle, he probably would have played.

“I was scared to get to Saturday’s start line with all of my players intact, so it was just a case of nursing them through, but I took a loss on Friday, and there’s no question that Drew is a massive part of what we do, and we missed him.”

The 88-81 defeat against Plymouth featured a fourth quarter collapse, and it was something Garbelotto hadn’t factored in to his final preparation, despite bouncing back to beat bottom team Essex Pirates on Sunday.

He added: “It would’ve been a good warm up had we won on Friday because we would have been on a three way winning streak and comfortable with everything we’re doing but we need to do a good job in practice

Heat’s Joseph relishing final stage

Guildford Heat veteran Julius Joseph is excited about the prospect of playing at The O2 Arena as his team prepare to face Mersey Tigers in Saturday’s Franklin & Marshall BBL Trophy Final.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said the 35-year-old former Great Britain international.

“It’s a great arena, and although I’ve never played there, I’ve been there a few times – most recently for the Lakers game – and I know the environment and the atmosphere can really electric and amazing.”

With his side having already suffered defeats in both the BBL Championship and Cup against the Tigers this season, Joseph has a good idea what to expect from the Tigers on Saturday lunchtime.

Jones: tough rival

“Nate Reinking and Drew Sullivan are definitely key for them. But I get to match up against James Jones, he’s s tricky player and a good shooter. He’s got a great basketball IQ and he’s a talented individual.”

Joseph recognises that a Tigers side that contains two members of the Great Britain side has the edge when it comes experience of playing in key games, but believes his side can spring a surprise:

“Tigers have a lot more experience of big games than us, and they’ve already played in a final this year. That may work in their favour, but we have a lot of heart and we’ve done well to get to the final. We’ll be doing our best to win the championship. We’re healthy and ready to go.”

The in-form Heat go into the game on the back of three wins in the space of five days which has seen them strengthen their bid for a place in the play-offs, and Joseph is delighted with the form they are showing in the lead-up to the final.

“We’ve managed to put together a good run of form and get some rhythm together,” he said.

“It worked out well to have three games in such a short period of time. The new guys needed those games to find their feet in the league, and that can only help us on Saturday.”

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