BBL Championship
Friday 23rd April 2021 – Surrey Scorchers v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks
Sunday 25th April 2021 – Plymouth Raiders v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks

The penultimate weekend of regular season sees the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, now confirmed as playoff qualifiers, on the road against one side still looking for a berth in post-season and against another who are hunting down a league runners-up finish. The Sharks themselves could in theory place anywhere between fourth and seventh and will be looking to use the final three games to gain that all-vital momentum into ‘May Madness.’

What to expect – Surrey Scorchers

Rather like the Sharks game with Worcester last Sunday, Surrey still find themselves alive in the race for a playoff place but are in great need of wins to stand a chance. They gave themselves a lifeline with a 77-73 takedown of an in-form Manchester Giants side last Sunday, being only their second win in the last five. Martelle McLemore shone in that one for them with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Their current guy with the hot hand is point guard Tony Hicks, averaging 14.9 points per game and 5.6 assists to boot ably supported by Lacey James, who has contributed 12.2 points per game and 7.6 rebounds since his arrival in Guildford. Former Shark Connor Cashaw didn’t figure in last Sunday’s contest but needs no introduction from Sharks fans for his statline-filling abilities and US college-bound prodigy Cam Hildreth continues to astound with regular highlight plays. The Sharks have won eight of the last ten encounters with Surrey but it’s do or die for the Scorchers so in no way can the Sharks afford to rest on their laurels, especially with playoff seedings and matchups at stake.

What to expect – Plymouth Raiders

The Raiders suffered a huge blow to their playoff ambitions this week with the loss of Prince Ibeh and Denzel Ubiaro for the rest of the season. With the transfer window firmly closed, the Raiders will have to plough on with a shortened roster, something they did to great effect last Sunday in beating Cheshire Phoenix on the road by 69-86. Talent still abounds in Coach Paul James team – Great Britain’s Ashley Hamilton led all scorers with 25 last Sunday, a sure sign he is returning to full fitness. Another in-form guy is point guard Rickey McGill, who led their charge despite the loss in the BBL Trophy Final. He compiled 22 points with 6 rebounds and has ideal backcourt foils in Chris Porter-Bunton and Elvisi Dusha, who splashed 8 assists last week. They have a dangerous big in Will Neighbour, who has a keen three point shot and a guy in Mike Morsell, who can do a little bit of everything as his time in Newcastle last season proved. Again, Plymouth will want some playoff momentum and have half an eye on a regular season runners-up spot so a keen contest is awaited.

Shark Watch

A delicate balance has to be found for the Sharks in the last three regular season games. They will be looking for as high a finish as possible and the resultant momentum to take them into the playoffs, something that was keenly felt when they were champions in 2016. Workload however, also has to be a factor following two intense overtime games last weekend and it was pleasing to see the likes of Oscar Baldwin joining the fray to see the minutes spread last Sunday. Skipper Mike Tuck became only the second Shark past the 4200 league point mark last Sunday and is now 50 points behind Shark legend Todd Cauthorn, who has 4252 to his name. Tuck averages 4.9 points per game this season so some big performances are needed if he is to achieve another landmark before the season is out. Last weekend sent confidence sky-high in the Sharks camp and there is no reason why this talented, enjoyable group cannot reach for the stars and take the final piece of silverware of the BBL covid season – belief and consistency is all they need!

Last Time Out

B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Lillard 24 Lewis 12 Ratinho / Koch / Hemsley 11) 88 Surrey Scorchers (Hicks 21 James / Cashaw / Rickman 8) 59

Plymouth Raiders (McGill 21 Morsell 18 Neighbour 17) 89 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Ratinho 17 Hemsley 13 Nichols / Koch 11) 74

Fans Corner

Both this weekend’s games will be screened on the BBL Player (www.bblplayer.co.uk), tipping off at 6pm on Friday in Surrey and 3pm on Sunday in Plymouth.

The Playoffs begin on Monday 3rd May and each and every game will be screened on the Sky Sports YouTube channel for free! Quarter Final first legs take place on May 3rd and 4th in Newcastle before the action switches to Worcester for the second legs on the 5th and 6th. The semis take place on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 13th, again over two legs in Leicester with the final on Sunday 16th May at the same venue. We will give further details as soon as the final seedings are confirmed!

Next Game

Surrey Scorchers v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Friday 23rd April 2021, Surrey Sports Park, 6.00pm Tip Off

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Adam Bates