Thursday 9th May 2019
benecos BBL Playoff Semi Final 1st Leg
DBL Sharks Sheffield 61 London City Royals 63
We’ve been here before! The DBL Sharks Sheffield ended their time at the EIS with a narrow two point defeat to the London City Royals in the benecos BBL Playoff semi final first leg. As in the quarter finals, the Sharks now move on to the second leg at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on Saturday looking to eradicate a slim deficit in an attempt to reach the O2 Arena showpiece on May 19th .
Sharks: McKnight, Marsden, Alexander, Williams, Martin
Royals: Jackman, Dusha, Roberts, Lucas, Hamilton
A 20-28 first quarter was as high-scoring as it got as the game unfolded very much as a defensive contest. Elvisi Dusha’s three point score gave the Royals an early 0-5 lead before Dirk Williams replied in kind. Orlan Jackman took the score out to 5-11 but an athletic catch and bucket from Dirk Williams restored parity at 14-14. The Royals put their foot back on the gas with a pair of Ashley Hamilton free throws giving them an 18-26 lead and a Matthew Bryan-Amaning lay up concluded a decent first period at 20-28.
As open as the first quarter had been, the second was an altogether different affair. Mackey McKnight’s jumper saw a 6-2 start to the quarter that took fully 4.20 as defences came to the fore. The Sharks hit penalty trouble midway through the period as Rogers and Dusha edged London away again at 26-34. Chris Alexander collected his own offensive rebound and closed the gap to 30-34 but it took an Ashley Hamilton free throw to conclude a 10-7 stanza going into half time.
The attritional nature continued into the third quarter. After Lucas’ early three pointer, the sides traded until McKnight’s score on Tuck’s assist. The Royals threatened to break out of the resulting timeout – Lucas, Bryan-Amaning and Neighbour giving them a game high eleven point lead at 40-51. Brcina’s trey and an Alexander score saw the Sharks claw back five points and an Akodo free throw ended the quarter at 45-52.
There was no let-up in the defensive battle as another close first leg played out in the final period. McKnight’s three followed by Alexander’s spin move saw the Sharks tie up matters once more at 52-52. Neighbour, Dusha and Hamilton again pulled away at 52-58 before Williams kept the Sharks in touch from distance at 55-58. Two quick fouls saw Rob Marsden’s involvement for the night end with 4.47 to play and it took another two and a half minutes before either side scored. Hamilton ended the Royals scoring at 59-63 with a minute and a half to go, spurring Dirk Williams to go down main street for a huge slam. The Sharks had the ball in their hands for the final play but wisely settled for the slender two point loss on the night ahead of a huge night in capital on Saturday.
After an open first quarter, the Sharks settled into a hard-working defensive display to curtail the Royals advances. Skipper Mike Tuck helped restrict London talisman Bryan-Amaning with his 4 points and 7 rebounds, aided and abetted by Mathew Martin, who put up 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Dirk Williams again expanded his game in the second half to contribute 14 points, just shaded by Chris Alexander, who made 16 points and 5 rebounds. The award winner was Mackey McKnight however. He put up 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in a display typical of those since his late-season return to the club. McKnight’s energy and all-action attitude will be key to the Sharks achieving success in the second leg if they want to make it to the O2 final on Sunday week.
Atiba Lyons felt it was a relatively scrappy game and backed his side to improve their shooting in the upcoming second encounter.
DBL Sharks Sheffield at London City Royals, benecos BBL Playoff Semi Final 2nd Leg, Saturday 11th May 2019, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, 8pm Tip Off