In a magnificent advert for British basketball, the DBL Sharks Sheffield put up a remarkable fourth quarter comeback before going down by 90-85 to the Leicester Riders in the BBL Trophy Final. Chris Alexander sent the Sharks into a 75-77 lead with just over five minutes to play before Eric Robertson’s three point score broke the hearts of the yellow-clad Sharks fans with barely seconds remaining.
Riders: Douse, Bernardini, Walker, Hampton, Holder
Sharks : Alexander, McKnight, Williams, Tuck, Wroblicky
The first quarter got off to the worst possible start for the Sharks as Leicester went out to a 12-2 lead. Mike Tuck’s coast to coast drive reduced the arrears to 16-10 but three’s from Wright, Bernardini and Robertson underlined Leicester’s domination of the period. Gachette nailed a trey on the fade for the Sharks but it was the Riders who claimed a 29-15 first quarter lead.
It was the guts and determination of Rob Marsden that hauled Sheffield back into the contest. He poured in eight points in the stanza as his team-mates also began to realise they were in a huge game. Dirk Williams three at 39-26 confirmed the comeback was on and a four point play with Tuck tipping in the third of Williams free throws underlined that even further. Leicester’s Holder kept the differential at ten, 49-39 overall and despite Alexander’s mid-ranger, the Riders held the upper hand at 52-41 at half time.
A burgeoning foul count became a problem at the top of the third quarter as Wroblicky picked up his fourth almost immediately. Walker’s three was tempered by a second ferocious one hand dunk from Williams with the score at 57-45. Bernardini sent the score out to 62-47, which spurred the Sharks on to a 10-0 run on Marsden’s free throws. Robertson and Marsden hit the four foul mark as the Sharks went into penalty and a pair of Hampton freebies saw Leicester still in command at 73-64 by the end of the third.
That lead was dramatically cut to two at 73-71 on Alexander’s mid range score as the Riders took a timeout early in the fourth. Wroblicky exited the game with 7.34 still to play as Bernardini added to the growing foul count on both sides. Alexander was fired up for the Sharks by now, levelling the game at 75 and then putting the Sharks into the lead. Neither side would concede an inch and it looked like Marsden with the head fake had given Sheffield a chance at 80-83 with two minutes to play. The killer blow came when Robertson drained the trey to give Leicester an 87-85 lead with just 29 seconds left. The Sharks turned the ball over out of the timeout as Holder went on to make one score from the line. Alexander’s three point attempt rimmed out and Walker sealed the game for the Riders from the line with no time for the Sharks to fight back at 90-85.
The early exit of Tony Wroblicky having played relatively few minutes was a key blow for the Sharks. In his absence, it was another captain’s innings from Mike Tuck with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Inspiring that fourth quarter fightback, Chris Alexander showed all his wiles on the way to 20 points with 6 rebounds. But the MVP was all about Yorkshire grit. Doncaster-born Rob Marsden hauled his Yorkshire side into the contest with another sweat-soaked display that garnered a near double-double at 16 points and 9 rebounds. Given the slow start, that the Sharks even contemplated getting a lead in the final period was nothing short of miraculous and their efforts were at least appreciated by yellow-clad SharkNation band of followers.
Mike Tuck – ‘A frustrating loss for us tonight. Our guys battled to make it an exciting game but Leicester were very tough down the stretch. A huge shout out to all our fans that made the trip up to Glasgow today. The Yellow Army came out in numbers and from myself and the team, we appreciate you! Stick with us, still a lot of basketball to play this season. ‘
Rob Marsden – ‘We showed incredible heart to fight back and put ourselves in a position to win. We can be proud of our performance but we’re gutted we couldn’t bring back the Trophy for our fans.’
Cheshire Phoenix at DBL Sharks Sheffield, Friday 9th March 2018, EIS Sheffield, 7.30pm tip off