Leicester Riders 90 Sheffield Sharks 65 (Sharks lost 182-141 on aggregate)
IT wasn’t totally expected that Sheffield Sharks season came to an end yesterday, but when it did it emphasised the gulf between the top clubs and Atiba Lyons’ team.
Trailing by 16 points after Friday night’s first leg at the English Institute of Sport, the Sharks only real hopes of extending their season would have been for a strong first quarter at the return match in Loughborough.
However it wasn’t to be as Riders took a 13-11 deficit and, through the excellent duo of Cameron Rundles and Andrew Sullivan, turned it into a 27-15 lead after 10 minutes.
The burst was decisive and carried out in just under three and a half minutes.
One moment Sheffield had made their first tentative cut into the deficit, the next they now trailed by 28 with half an hour to play.
Reducing a gap in the mid-teens was always going to be a big ask for this Sharks team, despite showing on occasions that they can get enough momentum to storm away from their opponents with their three-point shooting.
On the night it was the Riders who landed the big punches from deep.
Rundles was successful on four of his six attempts from beyond the arc as Leicester went a combined 11 for 21. Sharks bomb-squad was more a damp-squib with the all-Ohio backcourt of Nate Reinking, Jimmy Langhurst and Ryan Patton making just two of 16 three-point shots.
Colin Sing was the only other Sharks to knock down a three ball.
After the first quarter Riders lead on the night never dipped below double-digits.
A 20-point margin (43-23) was established in the second period, on the way to a 47-30 lead at half time.
The third quarter was more even, but Riders still shaded it 23-20 to extend their advantage to 70-50.
And there was no let up in the final stanza as Riders lead peaked at 27 (83-56) before Leicester boss Rob Paternostro finally took off the brilliant Rundles.
It was a disappointing end to a miserable year for the Sharks on and off the court.
SHARKS: Babalola 20, Tuck 13, Langhurst 11, Sing 9, Patton 4, Reinking 4, Gachette 2, Lyons 2.