Scant consolation but the DBL Sharks Sheffield played their part in possibly the most thrilling game of the 2017-18 BBL season so far before going down to league leaders Leicester Riders in double overtime. Mackey McKnight levelled the game at 76 in regulation and it took scores from Tyler Bernardini and JR Holder in the second additional period to finally give the table-topping Midlanders the win by 92-98. The Sharks must now regroup ready for the second leg of the BBL Trophy semi-final, which is a winner-takes-all contest after a tied first leg in Worcester.
Sharks: Alexander, McKnight, Williams, Tuck, Wroblicky
Riders: Douse, Bernardini, Walker, Gamble, Holder
A high-tempo first quarter played out as the Sharks took the early spoils. The teams were tied at 10 each midway through the stanza, when the game sparked into life through corner treys from Zach Gachette and Dirk Williams. Bernardini got one back for the Riders but a Rob Marsden bucket saw the Sharks on the high side by 24-15.
Roles were reversed in the second period. A Holder ‘and one’ play kick-started Leicester as they went on to take the second period by 14-27. Ten Shane Walker points put the Riders back in front at 32-35, compounded by an Eric Robertson triple out of the corner pocket. Two scores from Mike Tuck reduced the arrears but it was Leicester who went in at 38-42 at half time.
Bernardini capped a superlative personal game with a three at the top of the third quarter and followed that up with a huge one two minutes in to keep Leicester in front at 43-50. McKnight replied in kind as the second half became a defensive masterclass in contrast to the offensive nature of the first. Chris Alexander’s ‘and one’ levelled matters at 53 each and a solitary success from the line by Rob Marsden saw the Sharks claim the spoils at 54-53 after thirty minutes.
Leicester tied up the battle royale at 60 on TrayVonn Wright’s corner trey three minutes into the fourth but it was the Sharks who pulled away to a six point lead on Mike Tuck’s hook at 71-65 with three minutes remaining. Gamble started the Riders fightback with a triple and a couple of forceful drives into the paint from skipper Bernardini saw Leicester back in front at 73-74. Robertson looked to have given his side the win from the line at 73-76 with 6.4 seconds remaining. Dirk Williams three attempt missed only to be rebounded by Tuck and recycled to McKnight, who shot the three that sent the game into overtime.
Another huge Bernardini three put Leicester ahead at 80-83 after two minutes of overtime. The defensive intensity continued as Alexander levelled with an ‘and one’ at 83. Neither side scored in the remaining 1.57 of the period as Leicester went into the second extra spell without Shane Walker, who sat with five fouls.
Gachette’s triple opened the second extra period but Robertson levelled at 88 out of the corner once more. A long Bernardini two and a score from Holder put Leicester up by 90-94 and as the clocked ticked down Bernardini and Gamble were successful from the line to see the Riders to a 92-98 win.
It was a huge effort from all the Sharks in a physically-demanding contest that ultimately ended fruitless. Chris Alexander came away with his now-customary 21 point haul. Mackey McKnight recorded only the second triple-double of the season with a statline of 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Write him off at your peril, the MVP award deservedly went the way of Sharks skipper Mike Tuck. Bulletin boards were questioning whether the vet was a spent force but this was an answer in the best possible way. Tuck was at his chest-beating, heart-on-sleeve best on his way to 26 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists. A quest for silverware, a potential Commonwealth Games place in the England squad and a tenth BBL campaign next year are huge goals for the soon-to-be 35 year old and on this form, few would back against him.
Mike Tuck spoke of an exhausting contest and the need to re-focus and prepare for a massive game to come in the BBL Trophy against Worcester on Sunday.
Worcester Wolves at DBL Sharks Sheffield, Sunday 11th February 2018, EIS Sheffield, 4pm Tip Off.