One down. One to go? Mersey Tigers can clinch the BBL Championship tonight with a win in Newcastle after they defeated Sheffield Sharks 88-75 at the Echo Arena on Tuesday.

And it promises to be an intense affair on Tyneside as the champions of the past three years fight tooth and nail to prolong their reign.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Tigers guard James Jones. “To win the league on their court after the way they’ve dominated it for the last three years would be fantastic.”

In front of their biggest crowd of the season, Tony Garbelotto's men produced an authoritative display to end Sheffield's lingering title hopes despite a second half rally which left nerves on edge.

After the league leaders had led 43-34 at half-time, Jones delivered a three-point barrage to move Mersey 17 clear midway through the third quarter.

However Sharks cut the gap to 68-56 at the outset of the fourth and their defensive pressure forced Tigers to hold on for their lives.

But, led by 22 points from David Aliu, they won out, setting up the ultimate decider.

Garbelotto said: “David and James are leading this team at the moment with their effort, their energy and desire.  They were outstanding today and really delivered.”

Ryan Patton paced the visitors with 19 points and 9 rebounds.

Meanwhile Sheffield guard Steve Dagostino insists he has not made any decision over his future, once his current deal expires this summer.

“I’m just focusing on seeing where this season ends up,” Dagostino admits. “I think individually, I’ve had a good year. I think I’ve made an impact on the BBL. I was in Italy last year and Hungary the year before.

“I feel really comfortable in England. My girlfriend likes it here. It’s a place where, if I get the right deal, I would love to stay.

“Obviously, as a competitor, I would love to play at the top level. So we’ll see what the mainland has to offer. But I could see myself coming back to the BBL, definitely.”


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