The DBL Sharks Sheffield head into the Playoffs this coming weekend on the back of a fourth place regular season finish. The Sharks took an 83-70 win in front of the BBC cameras on the road in Worcester on Friday night to confirm a top four spot before going down to a tight 82-84 defeat against Newcastle in the final match of regular season. The fourth place finish gives them a Quarter Final tie with the fifth placed team and so Worcester Wolves will be their opponents once more in an aggregate two-leg affair, to be played this coming Friday and Sunday.
The two teams have matched up on four occasions this season. The Sharks managed a 3-0 clean sweep in league matches. September 30th saw the Sharks take a 64-78 road win. Back on home territory, the Sharks toughed-out a 79-77 on February 3rd and the 83-70 win on Friday saw the league series complete. Worcester’s success came in the BBL Trophy on January 6th in front of the BBC cameras once more as they recorded a 99-68 win. So 3-1 across the season but there is clearly far more to it than that.
The Sharks roster that finished regular season is markedly different from the one that began it due in the main to an unbelievable run of injuries. Worcester too made roster changes during the season that had a tremendous impact and it was in fact the Sharks last Friday that broke a twelve game streak for the Wolves. Out of all the Quarter Final ties, this is perhaps the ‘tie of the round’ with two teams that know each other well and have produced some scintillating basketball to boot.
Worcester Coach Paul James made it clear last weekend that influential forward Maurice Walker was being rested for the upcoming Playoff campaign. Walker has recorded 18.39 points per game with 9.13 rebounds on average since coming to the club mid-term, shooting 56% from the field and has been a key factor in the Wolves success in the second half of the year. To focus solely on the towering forward would be a mistake however. The Sharks got burned by the three point shooting of Danny Huffor (14.44 Championship points per game in 16/17) in that BBL Trophy defeat and shooting from beyond the arc is something James’ side do well if allowed. Jermel Kennedy (12.49 points per game, 7.27 rebounds per game) is athletic and versatile and the unpredictable Trevor Setty (11.45 points per game, 5.48 rebounds per game) brings three seasons of BBL experience to the table. Coach James retained the services of Trey Zeigler (14.75 points per game) for the run-in to the end of the season and the man he replaced, Andrew Bachman is now coming back to fitness in addition to Alex Navajas, who provides solid minutes at Power Forward. Last, but by no means least, come the guard positions. Marek Klassen (12.73 points per game, 6.27 assists per game) has proved to be a shrewd acquisition following his debut BBL season with Leeds Force and has the tools to unlock defences, as has Ashton Khan, who often slips through the back door unnoticed to give Worcester further options.
The Sharks are as healthy as can be expected at the end of a rough, tough season and determined to give their all in a quest to repeat last season’s BBL Playoff title win. That is the message coming from the camp in the week leading up to the Worcester encounters. At the club’s annual awards dinner, Malcolm Riley was given the Club Player of the Year plaudits for an excellent campaign where he is averaging 16.38 points per game and 5.85 rebounds on 46% shooting. Riley’s shooting has been a key feature in the Sharks’ rise to fourth in the table and fellow import Rashawn Rembert has pushed him all the way on his path to 15.63 points per game at 47% and of course, his solid 92% from the free throw line. Rembert was joined in the Coaches’ Player of the Year award by Centre Tony Wroblicky. He currently is ranked second in the league for rebounding with 8.59 per game and his inside game has garnered 12.07 points per game at a very healthy 55%.
Above all, what has gone before in the previous eight months is now largely irrelevant. The post-season dance is now upon us and we are into the scenario of two-leg aggregate basketball. Both teams stand 160 minutes away from a potential sell-out NBA-sized crowd at the O2 Arena on May 14th. It is time to leave it all out on court and not be left wondering what might have been. Time to seize the chance for glory!
You’ve been with us all the way for the past eight months and we need you for the final push! Not only are Atiba, Ariel, Mike and the guys in the spotlight, so are you, our amazing SharkNation! There is only one ticket you need this Friday 28th April and that is to the EIS Sheffield where we take on the Worcester Wolves in the first leg of the BBL Playoff Quarter Finals. To book your ‘can’t miss’ ticket call 0114 2573180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ensure that you are part of the action. Sales close at midday on Friday. Remember last year? Well we’ve got to turn the noise up to eleven this time around to get behind the guys! Get ready our ‘sixth man,’ now is your time to shine! #GoSharks
Image: Sharks Team Photographers