Basketball: Sharks set to step up top-six pursuit

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SHEFFIELD Sharks coach Atiba Lyons has praised his team after they entered a crucial part of their season with victory on Friday night.

The Sharks overcame a gritty Manchester Giants side to move into seventh place in the BBL Championship.

And while they’re on the same amount of points as the eighth and ninth placed teams and just two ahead of tenth and 11th, the Sharks have at least three fewer defeats than their closest rivals.

Moving above seventh before the end of the regular season would be Sharks preference given that they’d face either Leicester Riders or Newcastle Eagles in the first round of the play-offs.

However, Worcester Wolves, in sixth, are eight points clear and own the season series against Sheffield. It means there’d need to be a five game swing in the Sharks favour with just 11 regular season matches to play.

Lyons said he was pleased with the way his team responded to a heavy defeat before their win against Manchester: “We had a tough loss and didn’t perform as well as we should have done against Leicester (a 72-51 loss) so we wanted to get better.

“I know these guys are on the same page. Even if I’m not there they talk about the same things and have the same vision. I knew they’d come out and play hard for me.”

Lyons also admires the way Canadian big man Mike Tuck has developed his game this season. Tuck, who turns 30 next month, is in his fourth season at the club and Lyons believes he is getting better.

“Tuck is playing fantastic - he really improved in the summer. He wants to just keep getting better,” he said.

“He’s more effective in the post and he keeps playing a lot smarter.”

The BBL Championship title appears to be a two-horse race after the weekend despite Newcastle losing to Cheshire Phoenix on Friday night.

Cheshire, who Sharks play in the BBL Trophy semi-finals, shocked the Eagles in the north-east on Friday but couldn’t repeat the trick against Leicester on Sunday evening at home.

Leicester lead the Eagles by two points with both having 11 games to play.