Nervous disposition? Dicky ticker? Prematurely grey? All conditions that will be exacerbated by watching the DBL Sharks Sheffield but the good news is that it is another win and it is against BBL Cup winners Cheshire Phoenix! Joking aside, the Sharks did well in putting one of their nearest rivals to the sword despite a nervous situation down the stretch. The win takes the Sharks back to fifth place with a 10-5 record and a visit to Plymouth on the cards for Sunday.
Sharks: Tuck, Wroblicky, Williams, McKnight, Alexander.
Phoenix: May-Thompson, Riley, Jackman, Gettys, Bailey.
The Phoenix were without key point guard Robert Sandoval but came out of the traps quicker. After Wroblicky and Alexander had given the Sharks the lead, Raheem May-Thompson went to work with nine points in the quarter. 4-11 in the ‘Nix favour looked ominous for the Sharks but Rob Marsden (6), McKnight (3) and Williams (5) saw the Sharks edge in front at 22-17 by the quarter end.
Marsden continued the good work into the second period. He made the Sharks first three points but Touray (5), Falzon (3) and Jackman with an ‘and one’ drew Cheshire to within one point at 31-30. The Sharks took the next run as an impressive spell from James Mitchell was backed up by a McKnight trey and three Wroblicky points as Cheshire took time at 39-30. Alexander capitalised on a Mitchell offensive rebound at 41-32 and Mitchell himself converted with the score at 43-35. Wroblicky, Alexander and Gachette found the hoop to give the Sharks a twelve point advantage but Devan Bailey with two seconds remaining saw the Phoenix go in down by 49-39 at half time.
The third period saw the Sharks hold the ‘Nix at arms length without ever really killing the game off. That all-too-rare occurrence, a Tony Wroblicky three, saw the Sharks maintain the ten point difference at 58-48 mid-way through the stanza and four more points from a fired-up Rob Marsden saw the Sharks in front by 64-48. Jackman and May-Thompson refused to back down and although the Sharks remained in charge, Cheshire were never too far away at 67-59 by the end of the third quarter.
A bit of ‘Eurostep’ allowed Zach Gachette to restore the Sharks advantage at the top of the fourth by 69-59 but the ‘Nix began to chip away at the Sharks lead. Touray and Jackman saw Cheshire to within four at 69-65 before Alexander’s outrageous off-balance three put the Sharks back in front at 72-65. A goal-tend call and May-Thompson’s mid-range shot saw the Cup-holders to within one at 74-73 as the Sharks hit foul penalty with a huge 4.16 remaining in the contest. A massive Alexander ‘and one’ play turned the game with 1.12 to play and the score at 79-73. Cheshire soon ran into foul trouble themselves but Touray gave them hope at 82-76 with 12.1 seconds left. Out of the timeout, the Sharks committed a backcourt violation, compounded by a Malcolm Riley three with just 6.1 seconds left and the score at 82-79. Dirk Williams was successful on one trip to the line at 83-79 and the Phoenix took their final timeout with 2.8 seconds to play. Riley’s play rimmed out and it was the Sharks who clung to a fourth successive win and a rise to fifth in the table.
CJ Gettys was close to making MVP for the ‘Nix in last week’s BBL Cup Final but the Sharks did a tremendous job in nullifying his threat. The quorum of Tony Wroblicky, Mike Tuck, Rob Marsden and Sol Rolls-Tyson all had a hand in negating Cheshire’s threat under the hoop and were key in a defensive effort that ultimately won the game. Firstly, Tony Wroblicky claimed a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds that shut off Gettys despite giving away at least three inches in height to him. Rob Marsden was clearly unhappy with a return of just 2 points against his former side Manchester last week and went on to pour in 15 points with 5 rebounds in a display that re-affirmed his role of the workhorse of the Sharks forwards. Marsden deservedly received joint-accolades with Chris Alexander on the night, as he contributed 27 points to re-invigorate Sheffield at times when they looked at sea against the unforgiving Phoenix.
Point Guard Mackey McKnight braved the EIS Sheffield cold to talk of a win that was surely never in doubt and the gruelling schedule yet to come as the Sharks head down to Plymouth this Sunday.
DBL Sharks Sheffield at Plymouth Raiders, Sunday 4th February 2018, Plymouth Pavilions, 4 pm Tip Off.