BBL Championship
Friday 12th February 2021 – Newcastle Eagles v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks
Sunday 14th February 2021 – B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Leicester Riders

February – the month of double-headers. And this one looks particularly tasty! On Friday evening the Sharks head up to the north east to take on the BBL Cup winners and the side currently in second place in the league, Newcastle Eagles. Valentines Sunday sees Rob Paternostro bring his table-topping Leicester Riders to Ponds Forge as the eight game month reaches its half way stage.

What to expect – Newcastle Eagles

With one piece of silverware under their belts already, Ian Macleod’s Eagles look hungry for more already. Unbeaten in their last four in the league and with three wins over the Sharks already this season, a trip to Tyneside is a daunting prospect. Shining for the Eagles in recent games has been Justin Gordon. He poured in 22 points with a huge 14 rebounds in last Friday’s 94-85 win over Worcester Wolves to go with the 23/7 he recorded in the previous closer 88-83 win over Bristol Flyers. Of course, their 77-84 BBL Cup win over London Lions is still relatively fresh in the memory, again marshalled by two times MVP Rahmon Fletcher, who dished out a trademark 8 assists to go with his 21 points. Newcastle are second in the table with a 9-2 record and five of those wins have taken place at their Community Arena so a tough night is on the cards.

What to expect – Leicester Riders

Rob Paternostro’s Riders will be keen not to spread too much love the Sharks way when they visit Ponds Forge on Sunday. They lead the table with a 10-1 record and have the season head to head over the Sharks having won by 74-64 back in December and 75-73 a couple of weeks ago. The recent game came down to the last two plays, Geno Crandall getting it to go in the dying seconds as the Sharks pushed Leicester all the way. Crandall has been a revelation for the Riders with a statline stuffing 17 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7 assists per game so far and is a key part of another team that builds on defence in order to deliver success. The Riders get an extra day of recuperation having taken on London in the Trophy on Thursday evening and therefore may be the fresher side going into Sunday’s Valentine matchup.

Shark Watch

Back on track. Wins over Glasgow (77-61) and Manchester (76-90) sealed a perfect weekend for the Sharks as the first of four February double headers was ticked off. Restored was the energy, enthusiasm and ball movement as an Antwon Lillard double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds masterminded the Glasgow success and a 26 point Jeremy Hemsley haul (which earned All Star Five honours this week) was key to the Manchester win. No room for complacency of course, Newcastle and Leicester (along with London) are as big as they come so there can be no let-up in the tempo. However, the joy of just getting out on court and playing lots of back to back games is something the Sharks relish according to Coach Lyons and he will be keen for the momentum to continue.

Last Time Out

B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Hemsley 20 Tuck 13 Lewis 13) 84 Newcastle Eagles (Edwards 18 Fletcher 16 Maxwell / Defoe 12) 92

Leicester Riders (Crandall 18 Lee 11 Jackson 11) 75 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Ratinho 14 Nichols 12 Hemsley 10) 73

Fans Corner

It’s Valentines Weekend! Why not show your significant other how much you care with the gift of basketball? We tip off at 7.30pm on Friday in Newcastle and 3pm on Valentines Sunday against the Riders, leaving plenty of time for that romantic meal for two! As ever, both games are on the BBL Player (www.bblplayer.co.uk) and with six games remaining in the month, a £19.99 monthly pass looks a good value present. The Sharks, your first, your last, your everything…

Next Game

Newcastle Eagles v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Friday 12th February 2021, Eagles Community Arena, 7.30pm Tip Off

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Adam Bates