SHEFFIELD Sharks have given themselves a mountain to climb in Monday’s BBL play-offs quarterfinals home leg after losing heavily at Newcastle Eagles last night.
The Sharks actually came out on top in three of the four quarters but a poor second period has left Sheffield needing to make up a 15-point deficit when the teams meet again.
Trailing by 17 with one quarter to play the Sharks looked like escaping from the north-east with just a single digit deficit when a three-point play by Mike Tuck brought the score back to 77-68 with 69 seconds left.
However, Eagles’ Joe Chapman, who has been a thorn in the side of Sheffield over the years, hit two three-point shots and despite Demetrius Jemison making two free throws Damon Huffman had the last word of the night to extend Newcastle’s lead. Atiba Lyons had talked about keeping the Eagles quiet in the first quarter and after weathering an early storm when they trailed 11-3 and 14-5 it looked as though everything was going according to plan.
Jemison’s two started a 15-4 run up to the end of the period that gave Sharks their first lead of the match at 20-18. Tuck scored the go-ahead shot as Sheffield dominated under the basket.
But it all went wrong in the second quarter as Newcastle turned up their intensity at both ends of the court.
Sharks scored the first points of the period to move 22-18 ahead but would only add a further six points as the Eagles out-scored them 32-8 over the 10 minutes.
Kareem Maddox levelled the match at 22-22 before Babalola gave Sheffield their last lead of the night as he split a pair of free throws.
Eagles then rattled off a 12-2 burst to move 34-25 in front.
And the home side would end the half on an 8-0 run to take a 48-28 advantage into the locker room.
Although the deficit was 20 points it was important that the Sharks remained patient to gradually reduce the margin. Over the course of the third quarter they did that with a buzzer beating three from young Canadian guard Nick Lewis reducing the arrears slightly to 63-46.
* SHARKS: Jemison 18, Tuck 17, Lewis 13, Babalola 12, Bridge 3, Holmes 3, Gachette 2, Sing 2.
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