After a couple of weeks in the worldwide spotlight, it’s back to the bread and butter of the BBL Championship for the DBL Sharks Sheffield with the visit of Manchester Giants to the EIS. A viral dunk and a stunning win in front of the BBC cameras have proved to be minor distractions but the focus is now on securing wins to climb the league table.
Manchester may sit second bottom in the standings but their roster is not without its merits. They boast the leading rebounder in the league in David Kadiri, who is pulling in 10.9 boards per game as well as contributing a very useful 16.8 points per game. BBL vets Ingus Bankevics (15.5 ppg) and Callum Jones (15.3 ppg) are showing all their experience in keeping the scoreboard productive and it has been a useful first season for their other American import, Austin Rettig.
Manchester’s two wins so far have come against Cheshire (79-88) and Leeds (98-116). The Sharks visited the Trafford Sportsdome at the beginning of December and came away with a 98-81 win. The Giants were without the influential Kadiri that day but saw useful returns from Bankevics (22) and Jones (19). It took 28 points from Dirk Williams and 23 from Chris Alexander to keep the Lancastrians at arms-length and secure a solid win for the Sharks. Giants Coach Danny Byrne has risen from the ranks in the NBL, where he enjoyed great success and is now adapting to life as a BBL Coach. The Giants are productive on offence and fight tooth and nail on defence – steely qualities that Byrne has instilled in them.
Well it took the best part of seven years but the Sharks have finally broken their North East losing streak. And how! It looked like the game was going to type as the Eagles led by 48-34 at half time. Zach Gachette had other ideas pouring in 21 points with 6 rebounds and 3 assists, 19 in the second half alone. The Sharks restricted the Eagles to just 6 points in the third quarter, while scoring 27 of their own, to turn the tables completely. Typically, Newcastle fought back to level in the fourth but Chris Alexander, Mike Tuck and latterly Dirk Williams came up clutch to secure a 76-81 road win and passage into the BBL Trophy Semi-Finals. Their conquerors in the BBL Cup Semis, Worcester Wolves, are their opponents once more and another tough hurdle awaits if they are to make the Glasgow showpiece final in March.
But after the adulation of Dirk Williams’ worldwide viral dunk and a terrific win in front of the BBC cameras, it is back to the nitty gritty of the league. The Sharks find themselves in a lowly seventh position, albeit with several games in hand. Furthermore, the top eight in the league all currently have winning records, something virtually unheard of at this time of the season. Following up on the wins against Surrey and Newcastle would most certainly be a step in the right direction as would a climb up the BBL standings. February sees a packed schedule of eight games and it is vital to end January in the right manner.
Your all-conquering DBL Sharks Sheffield are back at home this coming Friday 26th January when Manchester Giants are the visitors. Tip-off is 7.30pm and you can grab those all-important tickets from:
We need a big push into a busy February schedule so come along and play your part! It’s time for the whole BBL to #FearTheFin !
Image: Andy Chubb