THE Sharks blew the BBL title race wide open last night (Friday) at Newcastle Eagles with a nailbiting 98-102 victory over the reigning champions.
Needing a win to give themselves a realistic hope of keeping pace with the Eagles, Atiba Lyons’ team fought back from a 12-point third quarter deficit to stun the Geordies in a frantic final period.
A 7-0 run inside the final 90 seconds gave Sharks a 90-97 lead and despite Eagles making two three-point shots Steve Dagostino, Olu Babalola and Lyons kept their cool from the free throw line to secure the victory.
After been blown out during the first half in their last meeting Sharks wanted to keep the match close. However, the returning Reggie Jackson’s first contribution of a three to make it 14-12 started a 12-0 run from the Eagles.
A three by Dagostino and a two Babalola brought Sheffield back to 23-17 at the first break.
Once Charles Smith had made it 25-19 the Sharks began to dominate. A Ryan Patton two and a brace of free throws from the same player bookended a 10-2 run, which gave Sheffield a 27-29 lead.
Sheffield three times increased it to a four point advantage before five points from Smith, to make it nine for the quarter, restored the Eagles lead at 41-39. Marcus Stout had the last word for Sharks to tie the game at 41-41 at half time.
Eagles seized control early in the third quarter. A superb 12-2 start to the second half saw them open up another double-digit lead at 53-41.
The One Health sponsored-Sharks battled back to within two through seven points from Steve Dagostino, a two from Mike Tuck and a three by Patton but Eagles moved to 67-59 on two Trey Moore free throws.
Sheffield wouldn’t be denied though and they scored the third quarter’s last seven points to trail 67-66 at the final break.
Sharks travel to Worcester Wolves tonight.
Sharks scorers: Stout 20, Dagostino 18, Patton 16, Tuck 16, Babalola 16, Williams 9, Lyons 7.