Sharks and Manchester Giants games have been billed as Wars of the Roses over the years but Sunday’s play-off quarter-final lived up to the billing.
Sheffield eventually progressed to a BBL play-offs semi-finals meeting with Worcester but they needed to fight and scrap past an ultra physical Giants team that never knew when it was beat.
After winning the first leg 63-60 on Saturday night across the Pennines Sharks knew their margin for error at the EIS was slim.
However, despite a good start from their visitors, which saw them take an overall lead midway through the first quarter, Sheffield were sitting pretty as they surged into a 46-33 lead late in the second period.
But a technical foul call on Sharks forward Olu Babalola sparked a confrontation between Sheffield’s Nick Lewis and Giants Yorick Williams.
In the aftermath Sharks forward Demetrius Jemison was ejected from the match for leaving his team’s bench and his absence seemed to shake Sheffield’s confidence as Manchester finished the half on a 12-2 run to close the gap to just four points overall.
Sharks regrouped in the early stages of the third quarter but a 12-1 Manchester run to close the period handed them a 64-57 lead in the match and an advantage of four points on aggregate.
Sheffield gradually worked the way back into the tie as a three from Jeremie Simmons capped a 14-7 run to open the fourth quarter.
Another three from Simmons edged Sharks 74-73 in front. James Jones replied in kind for Manchester before a two from Nick Lewis and free throw by Lewis seemed to have secured the match.
A quick layup by Jones left Sharks point guard BJ Holmes with the task of making two free throws to finally finish the Giants off with 2.3 second remaining. He made one of two and Manchester big man David Aliu had a last gasp shot to send the game into overtime.
He missed to the relief of Sharks coach Atiba Lyons, who said: “We knew it would be tough. We lost our head after the little scuffle.
“We got frustrated with the physicality of the game and they got away with it.
“We stuck it out and we played well down the stretch.”
Sharks first leg against Worcester Wolves will be at the EIS on Friday night (7.30pm) with the return leg on Sunday evening at Worcester (6.30pm).
The other semi-final will see Newcastle Eagles take on Leicester Riders.
* Sharks scorers: Tuck 20, Holmes 15, Simmons 11, Horstmann 9, Gachette 8, Babalola 6, Lewis 5, Jemison 4.