It took 23 points – and one long look within – to turn around Sheffield Sharks season. And having stared mediocrity in the face, Atiba Lyons side now stand on the cusp of toasting the end of the British Basketball League campaign with a double.

The New Year was but a day old and all was not well in south Yorkshire. Newcastle Eagles had travelled south and dished out a 112-79 defeat that was even more comprehensive than the final margin suggested. Trey Moore downed 37. The hosts trailed by as much as 39. Sheffield returned to the locker room, badly bruised from their beating.

There was a long inquest behind closed doors, reveals Ryan Patton. Hard questions were asked. Honest responses were provided. “After the game, everyone took a look at themselves, man for man,” confirms the American point guard. “Atiba let us know that we needed to pick it up.

“From that day, we realised what was at stake. We just said: ‘let’s go now.’ Everyone took it upon themselves to do what they needed to be successful. That day was the big turning point. We felt we were too good to not do special things this season.”

If their unexpected BBL Cup final victory over Mersey just two weeks later caught everyone – their opponents included – by surprise, there will be no need for pep talks or soul-searching ahead of Saturday’s play-off finale against the Tigers at the National Indoor Arena.

Of late, Sheffield has been the country’s form team, going 21-5 since the Eagles picked at their bones. While their late run at the league title was fatally hampered by their autumn struggles and two losses inside four days to the eventual champions, Lyons will bring his team to Birmingham with few weaknesses in tow and fresh from repaying Newcastle in kind in the semi-finals.

There is no single threat. The Sharks carry multiple weapons. “That’s what’s great about our team,” says Patton. “In the Cup final, it was Dags (Steve Dagostino). Other nights, it’s been me or Paul (Williams). Last weekend, it was Olu (Babalola). You have so many different options. What’s great about this team is that there is so much unselfishness. When someone does have it going, like Olu did against Newcastle, we’ll go to that person.”

Often, it has been the backcourt rotation of Sheffield’s three-guard trio of Patton, Dagostino and Marcus Stout which has caught the eye. Don’t overlook the bigs, states the former of the trio. The belated rise of Lyons’ side has been predicated on establishing their post players early on, using the size of Paul Williams and Babalola (left) to establish the Sharks favoured offense.

“Paul and Olu if they get it in the post, they’ll command the double team which opens up opportunities for us to get going outside,” outlines Patton. “That’s when the game starts following and opens it up for us. And we’ll continue to do that.”

It took time for Babalola to find his feet in Sheffield’s established system. Cut in Cyprus, signed as a late addition, the Great Britain international has saved his best work for last.

“We have everything we need and we have chosen the right time to come together in regards to making the right plays,” he confirms. “I try and do my job, which is penetrate and drive so we’re comfortable and confident.”

Mersey, pursuing a treble and affirmation of their superiority this season, cannot slump as low as they did at the same venue four months ago. Bullied and bowed as Sheffield took the Cup like candy from a baby, they took the lessons from their own internal audit.

Their final foes have re-watched the video, not to establish the Tigers’ frailties but to confirm their own strengths. “We went out firing on all cylinders,” Patton states.

“Dags had it going obviously but to down to our team defence, helping each other out. When we watched the film, it was positive to take it all in because we played a team game all day.”

That afternoon, Nate Reinking was absent. Mersey folded. Despite fears that Drew Sullivan would fill his seat as spectator, it is expected that the Tigers forward will be cleared to face the Tigers’ nemesis.

It will make Sheffield’s task all the harder, Patton concedes. “He’s a great player. He’s captain of the Great Britain team so you can’t question his leadership skills. You have Nate there too.

“But to be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s better for both teams to be full strength. It makes it a better game.”

Only this time, Sheffield know, there will be no time for inquests and corrections, merely a long summer of pain and reflection awaiting the vanquished. 

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