Smugglers gunning to regain crown

Portsmouth Smugglers
Portsmouth Smugglers
Conor Chaplin remains in demand. Picture: Colin Farmery

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Portsmouth Smugglers are preparing for another season in Solent Area Basketball Association division one.

The team, coached by Mick Byrne, is made up of many Royal Navy members and compete at the highest level of the championship.

The Smugglers finished third in the top tier last season – with 10 wins and six defeats.

They also reached the final of the Solent Senior Cup, where they were beaten 79-68 by division one champions Solent Kestrels.

Smugglers head coach Byrne believes the team can compete for the title in the new-look top division.

He said: ‘The team is stronger in that several players have returned from sea to do Royal Navy courses.

‘The league last season was very tight but the team that won it – the Solent Kestrels – have recently disbanded.’

Despite six defeats in the league last term, Byrne does not intend on changing his philosophy heading into the new season.

And he is aiming to regain the crown the Smugglers last won in 2016.

Byrne added: ‘We will not be changing our very organised and offensive strategy.

‘This consists of a quick fast break and, if this fails, a very well-organised pass and pick game.

‘Our one weakness last season was against well-organized zones.

‘But our outside shooters have returned and our scoring should be balanced across the team.

‘We have more or less the same team that won the double the season before last.

‘We would expect to do the same this year but the Bournemouth Bears are always competitive and the Eagles, from Southampton, are a tough team to beat.’

The Smugglers begin their campaign next Thursday when they take on the Winchester Royals at HMS Temeraire (7.15pm).

The Portsmouth outfit are the most decorated team in the top tier – having clinched four league titles since the 2009-10 season.

They rattled off a hat-trick before a four-year wait for their latest crown.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth Jam open their division two campaign against South Coast Tigers II at Admiral Lord Nelson School tonight (7pm).

Division two champions Portsmouth Fury had a false start in the top flight when their visit to Winchester Royals was cancelled last Sunday.