A 17-0 run at the top of the fourth quarter from hosts Leicester Riders proved to be the DBL Sharks Sheffield undoing as the dress rehearsal for the BBL Trophy Final played out at the Leicester Arena. Both sides were fairly evenly matched for thirty minutes until the Riders restricted the Sharks to single figure scoring in the final period. The game was a very cagey affair with both rosters seeing frequent rotation as Leicester claimed a 3-0 season record over the Sharks in league play.
Riders: Douse, Bernardini, Walker, Hampton, Holder.
Sharks: Alexander, McKnight, Williams, Tuck, Wroblicky.
The game began without the intensity of the previous double overtime match but it was the Sharks who were earliest to show at 2-9 on the back of Tony Wroblicky’s bucket. Kiefer Douse jolted Leicester into life with a three but Dirk Williams trey out of the corner saw the Sharks still in front at 11-16. Gamble replied from the opposite corner, followed by Holder but it was the Sharks who held on to a 17-18 lead after ten minutes.
Sol Rolls-Tyson and the returning James Mitchell joined Eddy Brownell on court for the start of the second quarter. Eric Robertson put Leicester ahead with a triple at 20-18, pegged back to level by Chris Alexander. Atiba Lyons was dismayed by his side’s lack of intensity in the ensuing timeout and it took a pair of outstanding coast to coast scores by Dirk Williams to ensure their noses were in front at 25-27. Williams continued his solid display with a three at 29-36 but five Tyler Bernardini points saw the Riders narrow the deficit at 34-37 come the end of the half.
The Sharks extended their lead at the beginning of the third period thanks to Williams (2), Wroblicky (4) and McKnight (4). TrayVonn Wright finally got on the scoreboard with 4.25 of the third quarter left to play and scythed through the Sharks defence twice more as the Riders drew within two points at 51-53. Pierre Hampton levelled at 53 and it took a Mackey McKnight drive to ensure the Sharks kept a 53-55 lead going into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter was ultimately where the game was decided. Wright’s one handed dunk opened a 17-0 run for Leicester, finished by a Hampton three at 70-55. Rob Marsden broke that run after 5.49 but it was in vain as the Sharks were resigned to their fate. Threes from McKnight and the impressive Williams bookended a Riders timeout but trips to the line for Hampton saw Leicester to a 75-64 success.
A clear winner on the night. It was an uncharacteristically cagey game from both sides; Leicester comfortable at the top of the table, the Sharks missing the influential Zach Gachette and maybe subconsciously already planning for Glasgow. Until stymied in the final period, Mike Tuck continued his good run of form, narrowly missing a double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. The eventual winner was clearly Dirk Williams. He poured in 21 points on 61% shooting, pulling down 9 boards and coming up with 1 steal and 3 monster blocks on the likes of Holder and Walker. The game played out in a fashion unlikely to be repeated in the Glasgow showpiece – expect a similar level of defensive intensity but in a one-off contest in a neutral arena, who knows? If Williams continues to bring his ‘A’ game, anything could happen!
Zach Gachette spoke of the reasons he sat out of this league encounter but confirmed his participation a week on Sunday.
Mike Tuck expressed his disappointment at the fourth quarter capitulation but urged the Shark Nation to get behind the men in yellow for the Glasgow final.
DBL Sharks Sheffield v Leicester Riders, BBL Trophy Final, Emirates Arena – Glasgow, Sunday 4th March, 3.30pm Tip Off.