Our Team analyst, Tom Fletcher takes a look back at the victory over the Sheffield Sharks in 2018…

Our clash against the Sheffield Sharks from 2017/2018 is the next Giants Classic. This Sunday at 5pm.#beeGIANT🐝🏀

Posted by Manchester Giants on Sunday, 5 April 2020

In a 2017-18 campaign that had thus far brought only three wins, we had started to play well down the stretch after a number of personnel changes that had seen the likes of Isaac Banks, Jordan Whelan and Jack Crook incoming. We’d become highly competitive and should have won numerous games, failing to get over the line against Glasgow, Surrey and Plymouth live on BBC Sport – all single figure defeats in the three weeks prior to this game, when we eventually finished one off against Sheffield Sharks.

The irony with this one at the time was that our two derby rivals – Sheffield and Cheshire – were in a Play-off race with each other, and when we surprisingly beat Sheffield it meant that Cheshire could still catch them with a couple of games to play – albeit they didn’t in the end – prompting a “thank you” message from their captain Orlan Jackman, which was obviously bitter-sweet for us.

The game was the second in a double-header weekend, with Callum Jones fresh off a plane from Australia having represented England in the Commonwealth Games; and with leading scorer and rebounder David Kadiri battling through injury – he tried to give us some minutes, but soon had to limp off.

So this became the ‘money in the Bank’ game! Amazingly, Ingus Bankevics and Isaac Banks combined for a whopping 50 of our 87 points, with Ingus hitting five of his nine three-point attempts en route to 28, while Ike added 11 rebounds to his 22 points for what was his second double-double of the weekend.

And they both made key buckets, as we trailed for much of the first half, and by double digits in the third quarter, until Ingus hit five points in a row and Ike made an ‘and-one’ play to get us back within one shot.

There were also memorable moments for our Manchester-native late additions, as Jordan Whelan and Jack Crook made go-ahead scores early in a fourth quarter that we opened with a 19-5 surge. Jordan scored six of his 11 points at the free-throw line, making all six attempts and icing two at the end that settled the game. Meanwhile, Jack Crook set what is surely one of the best screens ever seen on a British basketball court in flooring Sheffield’s point guard Mackey McKnight.

Isaac and Jordan had helped transform us defensively over the final third of the season. And something else that this game symbolised was how we had found real balance and chemistry by the closing stages of the campaign, with this being one of those games where everyone settled into a role and performed it well: Ingus just shot the ball (aside from his 28 points, one assist was the only other contribution to register with the statistician); Callum had 15 assists, but hardly scored; Jack scored efficiently, rebounded the ball and, clearly, set good screens; and Sam Lane had four points, five rebounds and three assists in increased minutes off the bench, having been deputising for Callum on Commonwealth Games duty. It was a consummate team performance.

It also heralded in a little golden spell against our Roses rivals, as it was the first of four straight wins over Sheffield as we went on to sweep them in 2018-19.

By Tom Fletcher