The DBL Sharks Sheffield face some pre-Christmas knockout basketball as the festive period draws ever nearer. The BBL Trophy gets underway this Friday with the visit of NBL side Manchester Magic, whom the Sharks have already faced in pre-season. Then on the unfamiliar night of Wednesday 20th December, Worcester Wolves visit the tank with their ten point advantage in the BBL Cup semi-final, confident that they have one paw in the final in Birmingham on January 28th.

The Sharks beat the Magic by 76-64 at the Amaechi Centre back in pre-season. The nascent Sharks barely knew each other at that point and the game was seen as a pleasing start to the long campaign ahead. The Magic currently hold sixth place in NBL Division One with a 6-4 record. They do have players with BBL experience. Vet Stefan Gill currently puts up 17.57 points per game for the Magic and of course until more recently was a familiar face in the green of the Manchester Giants. Similarly, Ryan Lewis was also a former Giant and now dons the Magic jersey. A Magic standout is American Donte Gittens. He is racking up the stats across the board with 20.63 points per game, 4.88 assists, 7.75 rebounds and 1.38 blocks. The Magic took a 79-58 win at Greater Manchester rivals Lancashire Spinners at the beginning of December and followed that up with a National Cup win over Solent Kestrels just a week later by 80-74. Gill poured in 25 points in that fixture backed up by Gittens with 18 as the Magic bandwagon rolled on. Like the ‘magic’ of the soccer FA Cup, the Manchester side will be keen to claim their own giantkilling in the basketball equivalent and it is a game that the Sharks must be wary of against determined opposition.

Last Friday’s 102-92 BBL Cup semi-final first leg was probably a few more points than the Sharks would have liked but demonstrated why Worcester Wolves are possibly the form team of the BBL at the moment. The ten point deficit isn’t insurmountable as Cheshire Phoenix proved by coming from thirteen down against London Lions to stake their place in the final. It will however mean that the Sharks will have to limit the output of the talented and sizeable Wolves roster. Trayvon Palmer (24), George Beamon (20) and Brandon Parrish (16) all showed that they are all comfortable scoring the ball from inside or outside and when you look at the likes of recent short-term signing Robert Gilchrist, fresh from the GB squad, you can see why they are unbeaten in the last five games. The Sharks have shown that they are adept at clawing back big leads as they did without ultimate success in Leicester and Newcastle and it is a case of leaving it all out on court as they bid to reach the Birmingham showpiece. One thing is for sure, it will be a midweek pre-Christmas treat of a game and one that even the most casual fan shouldn’t miss.

The Sharks showed their resilience with Sunday’s 84-89 league win away at Surrey. A horrendous journey to Guildford in the poor weather saw the game tip-off an hour late with the Sharks given just half an hour to change and warm-up. It didn’t seem to matter however as the team took the game by the scruff of the neck, weathered a late Scorchers rally and moved up to third in the league. Tony Wroblicky notched up another All Star Five slot for his influential 21 points and there was court-time for new signing James Mitchell, fresh off the plane from Australia.

So before the first turkey dinner can be consumed, the Sharks need to focus on two competitions that offer silverware opportunities. They have shown that they are highly capable. The two-legged format of the Worcester game makes their target clear. Time once again to make the opposition fear the fin!

This Friday 15th December Manchester Magic are the visitors to the EIS in the BBL Trophy. Tip-off time is 7.30pm. Then on Wednesday 20th December, Worcester Wolves bring their 102-92 advantage to the EIS for the second leg of the BBL Cup semi-final. http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?pid=8511181&agency=TDC_UK&campid=TDC_NEW_WWW_2013  is the link you need to claim tickets to the best family night out of the Festive season.

Give the gift of basketball this Christmas! It’s time to #FearTheFin !

Image: Andy Chubb