Sharks 80-71 Giants
The Manchester Giants crossed the Pennines on Friday night to visit the Sheffield Sharks at Ponds Forge, falling to an 80–71 loss in the Shark Tank.
In a low-scoring affair between two of the North’s basketball powerhouses, Dirk Williams was the standout scorer for the Giants with 19 points, supported by Nick Lewis off the bench with 14 points.
Tajh Green and William Lee were the key performers on the defensive end with 12 and 10 rebounds respectively, and the latter added two blocks on a difficult night for Vince Macaulay’s men.
Sheffield, who beat both London Lions and Leicester Riders last month on a run of eight wins in nine games in all competitions, continued their fine run of form as the regular season approaches it conclusion.
The powerful post play of Sharks’ center Bennett Koch was the Giants’ Achilles’ heel throughout the game, with the Northern Iowa Panthers alumnus drawing fouls inside the paint with ease and taking care of matters at the charity stripe, converting a solid six of seven free throw attempts on his way to 16 points on the night.
The Giants struggled to create offence of their own early doors, going for a miserly 6/19 from the field in the opening ten minutes of play as they slipped to 11-point deficit at 28-17.
Into the second, and while the visitors were far from their fluid best on the offensive end shots finally started to fall, with Dirk Williams reaching 12 points at the half on a perfect 4/4 from the free throw line.
Green, uncharacteristically quiet in the points column, was still able to find ways to affect the game on the defensive end and he had collected eight rebounds at the half.
With the Ponds Forge crowd in full voice behind the BBL’s form team in the Sharks, the hosts were able to build a commanding thirteen-point lead with ten minutes to go and the scores at 58-43.
Ten straight points from Nick Lewis midway through the fourth gave the travelling fans hope down the stretch, with the Canadian guard proving a spark plug for the Giants off the bench.
But a dagger three-pointer from guard Jalon Pipkins with just over a minute on the clock put the ball game out of reach for the Giants and despite a flurry of scoring to close the game, Coach Macaulay’s men slipped to a nine-point loss.
This result means that the Giants have been pulled into an unwanted battle for the fifth playoff seed with just two regular season games to play – they now have an identical record to the Sharks and North West rivals Cheshire Phoenix at 17 wins and 17 losses.
Now sitting in sixth position in the BBL due to their head-to-head record against the Phoenix, the Giants’ remaining fixtures against Leicester on Sunday and Surrey next week have become must-win affairs as the men in green fight for some winning momentum to go into the post-season.