John Lavery’s Cheshire Jets produced the post season performance of the year climbing from 9th place to finish mid table in the BBL. Reflecting on this performance Lavery thinks that the Jets can build on this and push for silverware next season.
He said: “We want to go forward from here. We want to build on what we have achieved this year. Every aim for a coach is to win a trophy and that is our aim- to try and bring back a trophy to the Jets. I think the fans and the organisation deserve a piece of silverware.”
Towards the end of last season, the men in black won seven of their last ten games to set up a playoff tie with Worcester Wolves. After squaring up the first leg on the road at 80-80, the Jets won the match-up in spectacular style outscoring their opponents by 10 in a tense encounter.
Standing in their way of the Playoff Final were BBL Champions Newcastle Eagles. Cheshire Jet’s engines were firing on all cylinders as they defeated the Eagles 99-89. However, a strong fourth quarter from the Eagles in the ultimate game saw them prevail victorious by six points despite the Jets leading for the majority.
Lavery paid tribute to the entire team, as they became a solid unit battling through injuries to defy all odds of reaching the playoffs.
“We had a rocky journey in to the playoffs, it wasn’t smooth at all; it proved to be very difficult. We had a lot of injury worries at the beginning of the season. It wasn’t just one guy that got us there, it was a whole team effort.”
He added: “I said from day one we would make the playoffs. I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to make the playoffs. There was probably a lot of people at that time doubting my decision to say that at the beginning of the year but I knew what these guys could do. I recruited these guys so I had a lot of confidence in them.”
It was a very tough start to the season for the injury-plagued Jets who lost top scorer Matt Schneck to a foot ligament strain in November. BBL veteran Shawn Myers also had his season ended early with a thigh problem.
Cheshire had lost 8 of their first 10 games before losing Schneck to the sidelines and as a result, they exited the BBL Trophy. However, the majority of these unfortunate losses were by close margins.
Lavery said: “We needed to just stay positive. Every loss we went through, we were in the ball game right at the end in the fourth quarter. The majority of our losses I think was six points or less. So I kept saying to the guys we are nearly there and we will be in to win games so we just need to keep our heads up, keep our spirits up and I believe the wins will come and eventually they did.”
After the Christmas break, the Jets started to pull together strings of wins and it was all starting to come together. Schneck was back in the fold and the Jets saw a new man wear the black and yellow uniform- Kai Williams.
“After Christmas, I think we changed things around and the addition of Kai Williams helped us a lot and we started playing some pretty decent basketball,” Lavery said.
He added: “The situation was we needed another guy to come in to compensate for all our injuries and contribute some numbers. It was pretty hard to try and find our rhythm until we brought Kai in.”
Williams brought great athleticism to the team and his excellent perimeter shooting came just at the right time. Along with the high scoring numbers from Schneck, Adam Brown and captain Colin O’Reilly the Jets were fast becoming a threat to teams in playoff contention.
Lavery stressed that it was the small contributions from every member that made the Jets a great all round squad.
“Everybody contributed in their own way. People tend to see only the guy who scores the points and calls the plays; they don’t see the little things that help the team. If you look at the overall setup, in Bill Cole, I thought we had one of the best defensive players and Nathan Schall did a great job coming in off the bench. The kid came in with a lot of energy and what he did for us was fantastic.”
After winning four games in a row and holding off competition form the MK Lions, the Jets made the Playoffs. From there they accelerated and played some high quality, fast-paced basketball and narrowly missed out on the season finale.
Overall, Lavery is pleased with what his side has accomplished this campaign.
He said: “You look at our stats throughout the year and we only really had five players on the score sheet. The guys off the bench came in and done a good job and gave the starters a little bit of rest when they needed it. Overall, each one of my players has had a fantastic year.”