BBL Championship
Friday 26th February 2021 – B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Manchester Giants
Sunday 28th February 2021 – B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v London Lions

The mammoth month of February draws to an end with another huge double header, this time on home territory. The Sharks have recent experience of Friday’s visitors, Manchester Giants, having beaten them on the road at the beginning of the month. It has been a little while however since the Sharks matched up against BBL Cup finalists London Lions, a Cup group stage defeat back in November being their last encounter.

What to expect – Manchester Giants

The Giants are already starting to look a little different from the Sharks 76-90 win on February 7th. The departure of Breaon Brady, who was averaging 16.8 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game, which was announced this week leaves a big hole. However, Coach Danny Byrne has moved quickly to reinforce with the impressive recruitment of Justin Satchell, who has contributed 25/10 and 17/9 in his two games so far. Of course, remaining is Sam Cassell Jr (14.5 ppg 5.1 apg) as well as the best of the local talent led by captain Jack Hudson (3.8 apg), David Ulph (9.0 rpg) and Jordan Whelan (14.2 ppg). Manchester have only recorded one win in their last five games, 98-78 against Worcester Wolves, but are far more dangerous than their record suggests. They have figured in close games against Leicester (109-116) and Surrey (86-93) recently and with the addition of Satchell are clearly gearing up for a playoff run.

What to expect – London Lions

It has been a while since the Sharks took on the highly-fancied Lions and little has changed with regard to the stellar nature of their roster. Leading them in terms of point scoring is Dirk Williams (18.3) – a fact that will come as no surprise to fans of the Sharks where he is still a much-loved former player. Former Cleveland Cavalier Deandre Liggins continues to do it all – points (13.4), rebounds (6.3), assists (7.0), steals (2.2), shooting at 46% – he is involved all over the court. A real glue guy for London is Orlando Parker (13.5 ppg 5.8 rpg) and then the Brits like former MVP Justin Robinson, Chris Tawiah, Jordan Spencer, Shane Walker (you could go on…) bring a huge amount to the table. And that’s before we mention the likes of Kevin Ware! London were cruelly robbed of their chance on the European stage through Covid and that will make them all the more determined to improve on their 9-3 record and push current leaders Leicester all the way for the title.

Shark Watch

A little bruised, a little battered but still keen to keep up with their undeniable progress. Despite being without Nicholas Lewis and Johde Campbell all weekend, the Sharks excelled in that second half in Newcastle in front of the Sky cameras last Friday to claim a thoroughly deserved 77-89 win. A fascinating contest with Cheshire played out on Sunday and it was only until late in the fourth that energy levels dipped allowing the in-form ‘Nix to take the win. Capping a particularly good week was Jordan Ratinho, who made the All Star Five Team of the Week and earned the BBL Show player of the week award to boot. The middle of the table is bunching up somewhat – only two points separate London, the Sharks, Cheshire and Plymouth – so wins on the board are vital as is momentum towards the end of the season. There is no let-up in the pace – six games in March and seven in April are yet to come but Atiba and his team have proved they are up to the task. Frenetic February gives way to March Madness!

Last Time Out

Manchester Giants (Whelan 15 Ulph 14 Cassell 14) 76 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Hemsley 26 Ratinho 20 Lillard 18) 90

London Lions (Liggins 32 Ware 17 Robinson 12) 88 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Nichols 16 Lillard 16 Koch 13) 73

Fans Corner

Another double-header for you this weekend direct from the Tank! We go at 6pm on Friday against our Lancastrian rivals, the Manchester Giants and 3pm on Sunday when Vince Macaulay’s star-studded London Lions come to town. Both games are once again on the BBL Player (www.bblplayer.co.uk) and with 15 games of regular season still to go, the monthly pass looks great value for a whole heap of Sharks basketball. We thank you for your virtual support this season so far and we hope you will continue to send your good vibes electronically as we enter the business end of the campaign! Let’s Go Sharks!

Next Game

B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Manchester Giants, Friday 26th February 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 6pm Tip Off

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Adam Bates