The year concludes for the DBL Sharks Sheffield with a humdinger of a game this Friday evening (29th December). Visiting the EIS are the Newcastle Eagles, currently second in the BBL table after an electric start to the season and looking to prove that three recent defeats have been nothing but a blip on another march to silverware. For the Sharks, there is a chance to put behind them the BBL Cup semi-final loss to Worcester and to end the year hot on Newcastle’s tail.

It was an almost unbelievable start to the season for the Eagles. They claimed nine straight league victories, going through the hundred point barrier six times. However, prior to Christmas they hit a rocky patch losing to Plymouth (89-73), Glasgow (92-80) and Leicester (79-77). The nay-sayers were beginning to signal the demise of the Eagles’ title hopes but only the most foolish would ever write off Newcastle’s single-minded legendary player-coach Fab Flournoy. At his disposal, Flournoy currently has the league’s leading scorer, Jaysean Paige, only nine away from three hundred points this season and currently averaging 24.3 per game. Not far behind is diminutive point guard Saah Nimley, weighing in with 18.8 per game and 5.2 assists to boot. Just to prove it’s not all about the new guys, Darius Defoe is pouring in 14.8 per game with 5.75 rebounds.

The Eagles and the Sharks fought out a titanic battle in the North East back in mid-November where the Eagles prevailed by 100-93. Newcastle led by 77-60 going into the final period of that game before the Sharks made it a one point affair at 93-92 on Dirk Williams 3 pointer with just over a minute to go. A succession of trips to the line saw Newcastle close out the win but it was the closest the Sharks have pushed the Eagles on home territory for a good while.

The final game of 2017 gives the Sharks the chance to banish the memory of their BBL Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Worcester Wolves and edge ever nearer to second-placed Newcastle. Pre-Christmas, the Sharks ran into an in-form Worcester side who took the second leg game by 65-71 and by 157-173 overall. Worcester had already claimed a ten point lead after a few defensive lapses at the end of the first leg and it was a particularly slow start from the Sharks at the beginning of the second that sealed their fate. The two-leg format is a curious beast and allowed Worcester with their lead to sit deep on defence and protect their advantage. Equally unusual is such a low-scoring effort from the Sharks this season.

The return to league action represents the bread and butter, the day-to-day for the Sharks and therefore thoughts of the Wolves game can be immediately banished. The Sharks have performed with panache on the offensive end this season and have shown they have resilience, for example in the recent Surrey Scorchers match where they ground out an 84-89 win after a six hour coach journey. Once the turkey dinner has been digested, Coach Lyons will have undoubtedly had his men focused on the Newcastle game ahead, keen to ensure that the year finishes with a bang and setting up a prosperous 2018.

Looking for one last festive treat before the diets and return to work bites hard? Look no further! This Friday 29th December at the EIS Sheffield is the place to be when Newcastle Eagles come to town for a 7.30pm tip-off. For ticket information check our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).

The #SharkNation have been superb in 2017. Join us on our journey in 2018 and let’s make everyone #FearTheFin !

Image: Andy Chubb