SHEFFIELD Sharks coach Atiba Lyons has praised his entire squad as he basks in the glory of Saturday’s BBL Trophy final win over Leicester Riders in Glasgow, writes Richard Fidler.
Sharks were big outsiders to beat league leaders Leicester but secured the victory with two free throws by point-guard BJ Holmes with ten seconds to play.
Lyons said Holmes set the tone for his team by hitting three threes in the first quarter and admitted he was nervous when the American stepped to the free throw line with a chance to win the Trophy: “There was no expectation on us but it’s sometimes harder to do. We worked hard, we played good defence and we hit some shots.
“And then the big guys finished stuff off. We talked a lot about post moves and what we’d do and we executed.
“BJ really helped us out shooting the ball and applying pressure on their defence the whole game - he was relentless. As a coach I’m 95 per cent sure (he was going to make the shots), but as a coach you always have five per cent because you have to wonder what to do if he misses. BJ is one of those players that loves this stage.
“We’ve never been as counted out as a game. It was almost as if we weren’t a BBL team.”
Sharks preparations were hampered with an injury to shooting guard Micah Williams and an illness for Nick Lewis. However, 19-year-old Lewis managed to play and performed well alongside fellow Sheffield Hallam University students Zach Gachette and Colin Sing.
Lyons said it was important that his bench players were able to play effective minutes: “When people are playing well it helps, but it’s a case of having and idea of what rotations you’re going to need but once the game starts nothing is set in stone.
“If you’re playing well you stay in, if you’re not you come out. We tried to give guys as much rest as possible in the first three quarters and then finish it out.
“I was scared for overtime, I’m not sure how much we had left. We had a 19-year-old, a 21-year-old and one doing his finals out there but they did what they had to. They worked so hard on defence.”
Lyons also had praise for Demetrius Jemison, who joined Sheffield halfway through the season.
He said: “He comes into practice, works hard, he’s quiet and unassuming but he does what he needs to effectively.
“He has no ego - it’s purely about the team. He’s a pleasure to have and I couldn’t ask for a better addition during the season because he’s worked himself in perfectly.”
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