Basketball: Sharks ready for the Wolves


Sharks face their biggest test of the season tomorrow night as they aim to go top of the BBL Championship.

Atiba Lyons’ side welcome Worcester Wolves to the EIS (7.30pm) with both teams locked together on six wins and just one defeat at the head of the table.

Newcastle Eagles are the third club at the top but aren’t playing until Sunday meaning the winners of the Sharks and Wolves clash will be on their own ahead of the rest of the BBL.

It’s an important night for the Sharks who were impressive last weekend as they eased into the BBL Cup quarter-finals on Friday night with a 90-63 victory over London Lions before beating Cheshire Phoenix at the notoriously difficult away venue of the Northgate Arena in Chester on Sunday.

While the scoreline of 72-66 didn’t set many pulses racing the way Sharks responded from blowing a big third quarter lead to come through strongly in the final ten minutes augured well for the future.

Wolves were one of the favourites for the title before the season began and were unbeaten until last weekend. However, defeats at home against Plymouth Raiders (74-71) in the league and away at Leicester Riders (74-62) in the cup have taken the shine off a strong start to the campaign.

Sharks forward Olu Babalola says they’ll be a formidable opposition: “Worcester are a very good team with an even better coach in PJ (Paul James) so a win on our floor will be huge for us mentally.

“We respect everything they’ve done up until this point and look forward to having them come to Sheffield and playing an exciting game.

“We will come out focused and ready.”

Worcester coach Paul James said he’s looking forward to seeing how his players respond from their defeats: “At some point we were always bound to lose a game.

“It is now how we deal with that which will determine where we are as a team. I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond to this minor setback.

“These games I hope will serve as a lesson to us and we can get back to doing what we have done very well leading up to these defeats.”

“Sheffield have not gone under my radar,” James added. “They have been going about their work really well and are not to be taken lightly.

“Mike Tuck is, personally, having his best start to a season.

“It looks like he has been given more responsibility on the team and is playing really well.”

Sharks had the luxury against London of playing juniors Matteo Murriero and Naphtali Nembhard in the closing moments and Lyons kept to his pledge of giving as many of his young players as possible a taste of the senior team.

On Sunday it was Marko Backovic and Jake Wignell’s turn to be on the bench.

Sharks’ BBL Cup quarter-final clash with Durham Wildcats has been set for Friday November 22 at the English Institute of Sport.

Holders Leicester Riders are already through to the last four.

The other two quarter-finals are: Surrey United v Plymouth Raiders tomorrow and Glasgow Rocks v Newcastle Eagles on Sunday.