After a couple of gut-wrenching narrow defeats, Sheffield Sharks rounded off the year with possibly their most convincing victory, 87-68 against Manchester Giants, of a topsy-turvy twelve months.
A reasonable crowd in the EIS Sheffield, swelled by a healthy travelling contingent from across the Pennines, saw the home side dominate the court and gain the upper hand in the search for vital playoff points.
Sharks: Tuck, Jemison, Babalola, Holmes, Williams
Giants: Aliu, Jones J, Bailey, Watts, Eaves
It was actually the Mancunians who opened the scoring through Ben Eaves but only after a minute and a half of solid Sharks offense where the only fault was the ability to put the ball through the hoop. David Watts flushed a two on the back of a James Jones overhead pass to make it 6-2 to the Giants but from then on it was all Sheffield. Twelve first quarter points from Sharks skipper Mike Tuck saw the homesters open up a 27-12 lead as he and fellow big Demetrius Jemison won the battle of the boards at either end of the court. Callum Jones reduced the deficit to seven midway through the second but consistent scores from Holmes and Babalola saw the lead soon pushed back out to double figures. A completely unnecessary foul by Thomson on Tuck put the Giants into penalty and a half-time score of 44-31 was symptomatic of their problems.
Manchester came out with purpose at the beginning of the third, clearly with the words of Coach Jones ringing in their ears. Veteran Mike Bernard hammered down a two at the beginning of the period and produced a sublime cross-court pass to give Devan Bailey an open three with the score at 47-38. Watts flushed yet another two as the Giants pressed and harried at every opportunity. The Sheffield of earlier in the season may have capitulated at this juncture but comfortable buckets for Olu Babalola, Nick Lewis and Zach Gachette kept the Sharks well in control of the fixture and a technical on Bailey for delaying the injection of the ball to re-commence the game merely added to the Giants woes.
Scores from the unsung Jemison opened up the final stanza as Sheffield stretched the lead out to twenty three. Several shots from normally-reliable marksman James Jones fell short of the target and it was left to maximums from consistent performer David Watts to provide a solitary ray of light for Manchester. In between times, a neat trey from the corner by Nick Lewis steered five Sharks players into double figures and an imposing block by Mike Tuck on the not-inconsiderable presence of David Aliu summed up the defensive effort that made this a complete Sheffield performance. The Sharks gave court-time to George Brownell and Colin Sing with the clock eventually running down to a comprehensive 87-68 triumph for Coach Atiba Lyons and his men.
Sheffield captain Mike Tuck felt that the Sharks had a point to prove in their final home game of 2012: “We had a couple of tough losses by one point at Cheshire and by two in Surrey so this was a comeback game for us,” began the big Canadian, “it was also a revenge game for us because they beat us in Manchester at the beginning of the season.”
“It’s good to get our winning ways back and it proves that we are making the turn around in our season. It’s also nice to get a big win over a similar team to us,’ concluded the clearly-pleased 6’ 7” forward.
Play of the Game:
Yet another BJ Holmes half-time buzzer-beating special. Ever-alert, Holmes took the opportunity of a steal with a mere two seconds on the clock and managed to get his lay-up off despite falling away. Holmes was headed to the locker room as the ball dropped; this being just an everyday occurrence in the life of the ebullient Texan-born Point Guard!
Game MVP: Mike Tuck
One Health Sharks Sheffield at Manchester Giants, Thursday 3rd January, 7.30pm, Wright Robinson College, Gorton.