The big month of December continues for the DBL Sharks Sheffield with two more road trips. First up this coming Friday is a visit down to the Worcester Arena for the first leg of the BBL Cup Semi-Final. The Sharks then follow that up with a journey to Guildford on Sunday to take on the Surrey Scorchers in another crucial league match.
London Lions, Cheshire Phoenix, Worcester Wolves and the Sharks remain in the BBL Cup. London look to have one foot in the final already after their 87-74 win over the ‘Nix in their first leg but aggregate-score basketball is a peculiar phenomenon. And so the Sharks must get their handle on that prior to the first leg against Worcester that takes place this Friday. A big win makes the second leg easier to negotiate. A close game means the second leg becomes almost a one-off encounter. A big defeat and you have to throw caution to the wind in the second tie. The first two scenarios are infinitely preferable to the third and demonstrate how different the mindset can be in such matches.
Worcester are three unbeaten coming into this game after a fairly shaky start to the campaign by their very high standards. Last week they beat a resurgent Plymouth Raiders by 97-90 in a good all-round team effort. The Wolves were buoyed by the signing of GB international Robert Gilchrist on a short-term deal and he rewarded them immediately with a 14 point, 8 rebound display. Trayvon Palmer contributed 19, Dallin Bachynski (15/8), Ashton Khan (12 and George Beamon (11) were the main players. Worcester saw 2016 standout Jermel Kennedy leave after just four games of this current season and are now steadily beginning to find their feet. As well as the Plymouth win, they have beaten Surrey (76-61) and Manchester (97-86) in recent weeks and with one of the most respected playcallers in the game at the helm in Paul James, they too will fancy their chances to make the Birmingham showpiece final in January.
Which Surrey Scorchers will the Sharks face on Sunday? The dogged, determined side that took them down in the opening game of the season by 78-81? Or the side that fell rather abjectly by 93-64 in the Cup several weeks later? The Scorchers are 6-6 for the season and the last two weeks have been a case in point. They fell by 61-76 to Worcester at home but followed that up with a determined 80-85 road win against Plymouth. Stepping up to the plate big-time in that Plymouth win was Jordan Williams, who scored 25 points and claimed 10 rebounds but Surrey also have weapons in Tony Hicks at the point and BBL vets Tayo Ogedengbe and Alex Owumi amongst others. The Sharks will be keen to maintain their league record and therefore the switch in mentality to league play will be key to gaining success in this one.
After back to back defeats against Leicester and Newcastle, albeit with tremendous late fightbacks, the Sharks got back to winning ways on the road in Manchester last Sunday. The Sharks overcame a belligerent Manchester defence by finding success from the perimeter as Dirk Williams (28) and Chris Alexander (23) put up a fine shooting display to secure the victory. Alexander added 3 rebounds and 7 assists to his display to earn a well-deserved first slot in the All Star Five. Also pleasing was the 32 minutes, 13 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists for Mackey McKnight, who is battling back from injury to marshal the team. The Manchester game perhaps wasn’t the most complete display from the Sharks this season but the win was pleasing and bodes well for the five games to come in the rest of the month. An early place in a showpiece final wouldn’t go amiss either as a marker of intent to the rest of the league. As ever, the blend of skill and effort displayed thus far by the team is the way this can be achieved along with a big dose of belief! Nobody said it was easy!
Your DBL Sharks travel to Worcester Wolves this Friday 8th December for a 7.30pm tip in the BBL Cup Semi-Final 1st leg. Catch the game on livebasketball.tv if you can’t travel in person. The Sharks go away to Surrey on Sunday 10th December at 5pm again on livebasketball.tv for full coverage.
We return to the EIS on Friday 15th December in the BBL Trophy when Manchester Magic are the visitors. We begin the Festive season on Wednesday 20th December when Worcester arrive in town for the 2nd leg of the Cup semi. Check out https://sharksbasketball.org/product-category/tickets/ for details of our 2 for £20 ticket offer and give yourselves a seasonal treat!
It’s time to #FearTheFin !
Image: Andy Chubb