The agony continues for the DBL Sharks Sheffield as they slipped to a fifth consecutive defeat, still short of the single win they need to qualify for the post-season Playoffs. Opponents Manchester Giants, free of that burden, played with abandon in a manner that belied their lowly status to claim a fourth season win by 87-83 in front of their own fans. The Sharks must now focus on a crucial final two games of the season, starting with the visit of Glasgow Rocks this coming Thursday if they are to secure the one available spot at the big dance.
Giants: Banks, Bankevics, Jones, Lane, Crook.
Sharks: Alexander, McKnight, Williams, Tuck, Wroblicky.
It was an even start to the evening. Isaac Banks (8) and Mike Tuck (8) went head to head for the opening stanza, with Tuck levelling the scores at 14 with a shade over three minutes to play. Lay-ins from McKnight and Williams closed the period with the Sharks on the high side by 14-18.
The Sharks persevered in trying to pull away from the home side but a Bankevics trey and Banks reverse lay up saw them still in touch at 21-23. It took into the final two minutes of the half that the Sharks gained a narrow advantage. Gachette made an and one off Alexander’s steal and moments later Tuck drained a three to give the visitors a 29-39 headway. Ominously, Bankevics was successful from beyond the arc once more but a late Alexander basket saw the half close at 34-41 in the Sharks favour.
The Sharks also began the third period brightly. A spectacular alleyoop from Williams on McKnight’s pass opened the quarter and a revitalised Tuck on the fadeaway again restored a ten point lead at 36-46. Manchester finished much brighter however. Bankevics hit another three preceeded by a long two as he, Banks and Jones closed the gap to 59-62. The quarter closed on a pair of Whelan free throws at 61-63 with an interesting final ten minutes ahead.
Crook (and one) gave the Giants the lead at the top of the fourth, soon reinforced by three point scores from Whelan and Bankevics as the Sharks took time at 72-65. The same two players continued to exert their influence and a four point play from the dangerous Bankevics extended their lead to twelve at 80-68. The Sharks did rally – McKnight (5) and Williams (5) making it 80-78 before another Williams trey reduced the difference to one at 82-81. The difference remained the same at 84-83 with 13 seconds to go. Banks made a single score from the line but airballed the second, demonstrating the pressure of the match situation. From the subsequent Sharks timeout, Alexander stepped out of bounds and a pair of Whelan free throws concluded events; the Giants celebrating wildly on an 87-83 success.
Mike Tuck appeared to have shaken off the effects of jetlag with a well-controlled 18 points. Also showing the guts for the fight was Mackey McKnight, who contributed an all-round performance of 16 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Continuing his superlative run of form however was Dirk Williams. He shot the ball well, produced the spectacular in the form of another highlight reel alleyoop and came up with solid defensive plays as expected on his way to 26 points. The Sharks were lacking from the free throw line, missing ten shots, and small contributions from the rest of the roster underlined the current nerves about the team’s predicament. A final home game awaits this coming Thursday, where the backing of a partisan crowd could prove to be the spur that the players need in fulfilling their quest.