Sheffield Sharks in confident mood ahead of Newcastle Eagles test in 2021 BBL play-offs

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Sheffield Sharks are in confident mood ahead of the start of their 2021 BBL play-off campaign.

The 2016 champions, who finished fifth in the regular season, will meet fourth-placed Newcastle Eagles in the two-legged play-off quarter-final on Tuesday and Thursday, having beaten them twice in their last two meetings.

The first match will be played at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle (tip-off 5pm), which has been chosen as one of three central venues to host the contest, with the return fixture set to take place at the University of Worcester Arena (tip-off 5pm).

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Both two-legged semi-finals and the final will be held at the Morningside Arena in Leicester the following week.

Oscar Baldwin of Sheffield Sharks.Oscar Baldwin of Sheffield Sharks.
Oscar Baldwin of Sheffield Sharks.

"We have won quite a few games up there [Newcastle] this season so we are pretty confident,” said captain Mike Tuck, who previously claimed home advantage means nothing without fans.

Tuck's team mate, 6'10 forward Oscar Baldwin, said of the Sharks’ superior record against their opponents: “It definitely gives us a lot of confidence. We are scouting them every day in training, we know how they are going to play and they know how we are going to play.

"We have just got to come out and be the better team. Everybody is looking forward to it, this is what we practice for the entire year.”

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This is the twenty-sixth consecutive season Sheffield Sharks have qualified for the play-offs.

Sheffield Sharks coach Atiba Lyons is confident of play-off success.Sheffield Sharks coach Atiba Lyons is confident of play-off success.
Sheffield Sharks coach Atiba Lyons is confident of play-off success.

"We feel like we have got what it takes to win it,” said Lyons, who has led the team to the end-of-season contest in each of his 13 seasons in charge, with the exception of last year when it was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Even though the fans can’t be here it would be great to have a championship for them to celebrate.”

Baldwin, who is in his first year as a professional, added: “It would be amazing to do something special.

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"There’s always something a little be extra when we play Newcastle, I’m very excited for it.”

Asked how this year’s team compares to the play-off championship-winning side he starred in back in 2016, Tuck said: "That was another team where we had depth.

"This is a great team, we have a lot of talent. I think this is probably one of, if not the deepest team I have played on.

"We have always got a solid starting five and when you look down the bench we have got three or four guys coming off and competing as well."

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His head coach added: “We have possibly more scoring throughout this roster. The 2016 team had a little more size.”

The Sharks were on the wrong end of an 80-68 scoreline in their final match of the regular season against second-placed London Lions on Friday night.

Lyons was satisfied, however.

He said: “It was a good game for us going into the play-offs to take some points to work on and adjustments to look at.

"We have a young team and we probably weren’t in the right place mentally. We have to learn from it.

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"We feel like if we come and play physical, play smart and get wide with the ball, we will have a lot of success.”

UK fans will be able to watch all BBL play-off games free on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel.