It’s taken one hundred and sixty minutes of basketball to get here but the next forty represent the biggest of the DBL Sharks Sheffield season so far. The 2018 BBL Trophy Final plays out at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow this Sunday 4th March with league-leading Leicester Riders being the Sharks opponents. The Riders were triumphant by 75-64 last weekend in league play at their own arena to go 3-0 over the Sharks for the season so far. However, the allure of a big crowd and the sense of occasion are intangibles as the quest for silverware boils down to a single game.
A 17-0 tear at the beginning of the fourth quarter saw Leicester gain their twentieth league win of the season so far last Friday. The game didn’t have the air of a typical encounter however. The Riders were without Andrew Thomson through injury and TrayVonn Wright, feeling his way back from injury, saw just fourteen minutes play. Kiefer Douse and Rema Lascelles virtually split the game evenly and Tyler Bernardini did less ball carrying than in the epic double overtime game at the EIS a few weeks hence on his way to nine points and nine rebounds.
The Sharks were missing Zach Gachette; a constant spark off the bench this season. The Sharks welcomed back Jimmy Mitchell, returning after illness. It had been a busy week, notably for Sharks skipper Mike Tuck, who had been involved in the England Commonwealth Games training camp. A 22-9 final period was an unusually poor return and will be something that Atiba Lyons is definitely conscious of.
So what might be different in Glasgow? For the Riders, one would expect that Wright’s minutes would increase and that Thomson would be on court at some point having had another week of rest and recuperation. Bernardini uncharacteristically only shot twelve per cent from beyond the arc last Friday and there is also the threat of Eric Robertson, who can also get hot from distance and didn’t really see huge minutes last week. Lascelles had a solid game given the extra responsibility but the big stage might see Douse preferred in the guard positions to a greater extent. Pierre Hampton underlined what a talent he is with his performance and the Riders were as miserly as ever on defence, particularly in the fourth where the Sharks struggled at times to inbound the ball such was the intensity. Leicester, guided by their enigmatic Coach Rob Paternostro, have once again set the bench mark this BBL season and having missed out on the BBL Cup, will be keen to take away the three remaining pieces of silverware up for grabs this campaign.
The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd. The Sharks will need to channel the spirit of their last Trophy win in 2013 in order to overcome the Riders. Skipper Mike Tuck described the final as a ‘dogfight’ and it will take every ounce of their reserves if they are to achieve in Glasgow. Hopefully, Gachette will return from his precautionary lay-off as the Sharks can revert to the free-scoring entity that has frightened many teams this season. The core of seven used to great effect in early season will need to perform at the highest level with the whole roster being needed to test their mettle if required. The Sharks will need their inspirational skipper to be at his chest-beating, heart-on-sleeve best in order to lead his underdog charges in a battle royale. In their favour is that it is a one-off contest, in a big arena, in front of a big crowd, in front of a large television audience and the adrenaline will be flowing. These are the occasions that players and fans alike live for and come around 5.30pm on Sunday, we will know who will bask in another moment of glory.
The DBL Sharks Sheffield take the trip to Glasgow this Sunday 4th March for the BBL Trophy Final, which tips off at 3.40pm.
Want to join the Shark Nation ‘Yellow Army’ in Glasgow on the day? Tickets and coach travel can be booked by going to:
Can’t make it to Glasgow? Don’t forget to tune in on the BBC Sport website or on the Freesports Channel (Freeview Ch. 95, Sky Ch.424).
The time is now! #FearTheFin
Image: Andy Chubb