Thursday 6th May 2021
BBL Playoffs Quarter Final Second Leg
Newcastle Eagles 81 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 81 (Newcastle Eagles win 160-158 on aggregate)
‘Absolutely proud of them and a great job from our guys.’ The words of B. Braun Sheffield Sharks Coach Atiba Lyons after his side saw their season come to an end in the most heartbreaking fashion possible. The Sharks, two down on aggregate from the first leg, left everything out on the court, going up by as many as fourteen inside the final seven minutes. The Eagles, however, were able to tie the game with less than a second to play to progress to the semi-final stage.
Eagles: Edwards, Sayers, Defoe, Gordon, Fletcher.
Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.
The Sharks carried the momentum of their late charge from the 79-77 loss in the first leg through to the start of the second. Antwon Lillard’s steal and score made it 2-8 in the early stages and although he was unable to convert the extra point, his ‘and one’ midway through the period saw Newcastle into a timeout at 11-16. Back to back threes from Jordan Ratinho emphasised the Sharks fine start and a jump shot on the buzzer from Nicholas Lewis confirmed that with the score at 22-28.
The Sharks were able to hold their advantage through to half time. Kipper Nichols’ three point play was soon followed by a Jeremy Hemsley triple at 26-34. Nichols made his third foul midway into the stanza as Justin Gordon capitalised for the Eagles to put them back in front by 36-34. Bennett Koch drew contact to make an ‘and one’ inside the final two minutes, Cortez Edwards pulling two back for the Eagles at 38-43. Jordan Ratinho’s block on former league MVP Rahmon Fletcher demonstrated the Sharks will-to-win as they headed to the locker rooms.
Another even quarter played out after half time. Ratinho’s trey on the angle made it 40-47 as five points from Nichols saw Newcastle again calling for time as the score went out to 45-56. Gordon was determined to make himself the Sharks nemesis as he reduced the deficit to 56-60 and the period ended with Nicholas Lewis making one of three shots from the line with the score at 56-61. The fourth quarter was the highest drama that playoff basketball can bring. Sharks skipper Mike Tuck defied the years to assist for Nichols down main street, put up a block on the influential Fletcher and then string a three pointer that capped a 0-10 run with the Sharks up by fourteen at 56-70. Eagles centre Evan Maxwell added nine points for the Geordies and despite Ratinho hitting his fourth triple of the encounter, a reply in kind from Gordon saw Newcastle close the gap at 76-79. The Sharks entered the penalty inside the final thirty seconds – Edwards trip to the line tied matters up at 79-79 but a Jeremy Hemsley floater saw the Sharks level on aggregate at 79-81 with 8.2 seconds to go. Out of the timeout, Fletcher tossed one up for Gordon to make his twenty fifth point of the game and more importantly, just 0.7 seconds left to play. From Nicholas Lewis’ inbound, Bennett Koch was just unable to find the hoop, leaving the game tied at 81-81 on the night but Newcastle through to the semi-finals on aggregate by narrow margin of 160-158.
The Sharks left it all out on court and despite the heartbreaking nature of their exit could leave with their heads held high. Going four out of five from beyond the arc was Jordan Ratinho, who finished with 12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. Antwon Lillard unselfishly fouled out inside the final thirty seconds but not before he had filled his statline in typical fashion with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He has been a volume scorer all season and Jeremy Hemsley signed off in style with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. A supreme shooting effort saw the MVP award go the way of Kipper Nichols. He recorded a Sharks best of 20 points on 100% shooting for an index of 21 that unfortunately wasn’t quite enough to send his side on to the semi-finals.