The Sharks got the better of a bad-tempered match last night at the EIS with an 86-79 victory over Leicester Riders.
An explosive final minute saw the sparky Steve Dagostino and the usually mild-mannered Marcus Stout both receive technical fouls for altercations with Riders backcourt duo JR Blount and Jo Harris. Stout had to be restrained after Dagostino was flattened by Riders’ seven foot centre Liam Potter as he made a game-clinching basket with 30 seconds remaining.
The resulting jostling after that play and then on the next inbounds had little effect on the overall outcome, but does set up next week’s match back at the EIS between the teams as a potentially feisty affair.
For two of the best offences in the BBL, the first quarter was a scrappy, tetchy affair with both sides battling to see who could appear most outraged by some inconsistent refereeing.
Riders coach Rob Paternostro was working up an early sweat, berating the officials as his team fell 20-15 behind after five quick Mike Tuck points.
The protestations seemed to do the trick as Blount was allowed to drive to the basket at will and score the final seven points of the period to give them a 20-22 lead.
With Sharks guards Dagostino and Ryan Patton picking up their second fouls of the match early in the second quarter, player-coach Atiba Lyons switched to a zone defence. And it immediately changed Sheffield’s fortunes. Stout started a 13-2 Sharks run, which included a Tuck three, to take the score to 37-30.
The One Health sponsored Sharks were still not playing their best basketball as missed lay-ups by Dagostino and Olu Babalola demonstrated. And Leicester’s three-quarter court defensive press was causing Sheffield’s offence to slow down. But by half time, they held a 41-35 lead, despite 19 points from the impressive Blount.
Sharks looked to be well in control of the third quarter with Stout finding his range. The American shooting guard scored 11 points in the period as Sheffield moved ahead by double-digits at 56-45. However the Riders, helped by a technical foul call on Lyons and a sloppy turnover by Stout, went on an 8-2 burst to end the quarter trailing by just two.
To add to Sharks woes, Mike Tuck hobbled off with an ankle injury and only returned midway through the final quarter.
Seven points from Tuck gave Sharks a 79-73 lead. But with Potter making it a three-point margin (80-77) entering the final minute, Sharks had to keep cool heads from the free throw line.
Dagostino made two and then Tuck made another pair to see his team home. Sheffield travel to MK Lions tomorrow.