Sheffield Sharks will have to come from behind to reach the BBL play-off final after a 76-68 defeat at Newcastle Eagles in the first-leg of their semi at Sports Central.


In the early exchanges of the contest, it was the home side who bagged the first seven points of the contest before five points from Olu Babalola bought the Sharks right back into the game.  After the sides traded a couple of baskets, the home side once again looked to pull themselves away thanks to an 11-3 burst to take the score out to 20-10. 

Once again however the Sharks proved their resilience with a 9-3 tear of their own to trim the gap back to just four points at 23-19, but a three-point play from Drew Lasker – who hit a game-high 27 points – kept the Eagles' noses in front as the first period drew to a close with the home side leading 26-19. 

In the second quarter both sides traded baskets throughout the majority of the period with the home side maintaining their lead at nine points thanks to a Lasker basket to take the score out to 32-23.  The visitors kept themselves within striking distance for the remainder of the period and a Marcus Stout three-point play trimmed the deficit to five points at 34-29 with two minutes remaining in the half.  A pair of free-throws from Lasker extended the Eagles lead to 40-31 with 30 seconds left, but a big three-pointer from Sharks play-caller Atiba Lyons sent the sides into the locker rooms at the half with the home side leading by six points at 40-34. 

The second half started with the Sharks closing the gap to just a point thanks to a Paul Williams basket and a Stout three-pointer to open the third period, but the home side bounced straight back and enjoyed a 9-3 response to take the score out to 49-42.  The Sharks kept plugging away at the Eagles lead and another Stout basket got them to within four points at 51-47 with two minutes remaining in the third period, but a Lasker three-pointer sparked a 9-2 Eagles run to take the score out to 60-49. 

The Sharks finished the third period off in the same way as they ended the first half, but this time it was Steve Dagostino who bagged the three-pointer to close the deficit to seven points at 61-54 heading into the final stanza. 

In the final quarter the Sharks scored six of the opening eight points of the period to get to within a score at 63-60, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the game as they home side rattled off a 11-4 tear of their own to take the score out to 74-63 with 3:25 remaining.  A Babalola three-pointer with 1:35 left made the score 74-68, but a Reggie Jackson basket ended the game with the home side taking an eight point lead into the second leg on Sunday afternoon at 76-68. 

Babalola's 17 points for the Sharks saw him as the visitors leading scorer.

The BBL Cup winners sense destiny may await. Overhauling a 22-point aggregate deficit to Glasgow in the quarter-finals, states Ryan Patton, has fired up the side. Pondering the off-night which left them in such a hole is not on the agenda.

“That win can’t do nothing but help us,” Patton declared. 

“When you’ve come together as a team and been able to grind it out, down 22 at their home, there’s nothing bad about that. It helps.”

If only Atiba Lyons men had been able to start the season as they finished, they might have be attempting to polish off a clean sweep.

Since Christmas passed, no-one has been more impressive with their Cup final demolition of Mersey merely a sign of what was to come.

Just one piece of silverware, Patton (right) asserts, would not suffice.

“It’s something we’ve talked about because our goal at the start of the season was to win everything,” said the American.

“We got the Cup. We were a bit unlucky in the Trophy and the league was a fight to the end. But we’re still growing. We have to forget about the past and focus on the semi-final.

"The good thing is we have a different guy every night who can step up and really take us to the top.”

The second leg is at the EIS on Sunday.

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