Manchester Giants suffer defeat in the shark tank, running out of time against their cross Pennine opponents the Sheffield Sharks 91-86.
The final weekend of BBL Championship basketball kicked off with 2nd vs 3rd in a clash that would all but decide where both teams are seeded heading into the playoffs.
A simple but effective start for Manchester as Martaveous McKnight cuts to the basket for a close 2. A solid defensive start from the Giants too as they held Sheffield to single digits for a majority of the first quarter all whilst continuing to get baskets from drawing fouls and heading to the line. So much so that the Giants led the Sharks by double digits from 6 minutes in the first quarter which was reinforced by a steal by Tyrik Armstrong, the pass from Will Saunders and the close basket from Josh Steel. Despite the large lead, the defensive efforts were not forgotten leading to quick transition baskets, Josh Steel and Will Saunders connected once again but roles reversed as Steel found Saunders in the corner for three and Jamell Anderson hitting one in the next offensive possession to take the lead to as big as 18. A staggering score-line ended the first quarter as the Giants led the Sharks 31-13 as Ponds Forge became silent.
The Sharks showed a resurgence early in the second quarter and cut the lead back down to 10. David Ulph stops the Sharks 10-0 run with an and one play to look to get the Giants ticking over once again. Once the Sharks clawed the lead back into single digits, both teams began to trade baskets with the lead only going as small as 8 points through the midway point of the quarter with little opportunity for either team to break the deadlock. Sheffield managed to draw some more ground on Manchester late in the quarter as they sat 7 points behind the game leaders with 17-5 seconds left. The 7 point lead remained as both teams headed into the locker rooms with the Giants ahead 49-42.
Tyrik Armstrong hits two from the line to get the Giants off and running here looking to regain the lead they once had. The Sharks cut down the lead to just a single digit courtesy of continuous missed shots from the Giants. Sheffield completed the comeback midway through the third quarter, continually stopping the Giants offence and then making a 2 from close range to tip the scales in Sheffield’s favour. Josh Steel makes a tough three at the elbow to once again give the Giants an advantage in what looked to become another segment of trading baskets. This was proven to be true in the final stages of the quarter as Sheffield continually replied with a basket of their own. Josh Steel was not having it as he continued to make baskets shooting 80% from the field at the end of the third quarter helping the Giants maintain a slight advantage as they lead the Sharks 70-67.
Even after the interval, both teams continued to trade in what was a seemingly endless shootout between both sides. Sheffield began to pull ahead after a barrage of threes in the final quarter heading out to a 6 point lead with 5 minutes to go. The Giants made use of those 5 minutes, retaking the lead via a Tyrik Armstrong three from the corner in a game that has seen consistent lead changes and momentum changes all the way through. Basketball is a game of runs however and the final run from the Sharks proved to be insurmountable with the time left.
Manchester had four double digit scorers tonight with Tyrik Armstrong on 21 followed by Dan Clark on 17, Jamell Anderson on 11 and Josh Steel on 10. Dan Clark did pick himself up a double double as he also led in rebounds with 10. Armstrong nearly matched that but in assists as he finished with 8. Both players led the game in those respective stats.
Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said “Its the consistency for us, obviously when we give up big totals especially away from home it’s really hard.”
One more game left in the BBL Championship before the playoffs. Manchester’s last game sees them at home against the London Lions with a higher playoff seed up for grabs. Tip off is at 8:00pm at the National Basketball Performance Centre.
Words – Michael Blain
Photo – Harry Collins