Sheffield Sharks will take a double-digit advantage into Sunday’s Molten BBL Play-Off Semi-Final second leg against Glasgow Rocks, after a 91-80 victory at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Friday night. It’s the third time this season that the Sharks have won north of the border, but a late rally ensured that the Rocks stay within striking distance of a place at the O2 Arena.
Sharks led this first encounter from early on as Jerrold Brooks – who paced all scorers on the night with 25 points – hit a long three-pointer to set the tone. Kyle Odister added another, sparking a run of eight unanswered and the lead was already in double-figures at 19-9.
Sheffield are the second best defensive team in the league, and they held their hosts to just 11 first quarter points, and scored 12 first half points from the seven turnovers that they forced.
Jonny Bunyan – who finished the game with 22 points after hitting all of his shots in the first half – twice hit three-pointers in the second stanza to keep the Rocks in touch, as they got as close as 38-34.
But Brandon Hogg hit a dagger three-pointer on the half time buzzer and, despite the break, the Sharks carried that momentum into the second half. A decisive 10-1 push re-established their margin, and it went through twenty at 64-44 on Mike Tuck’s basket. Brooks nailed another three-pointer to open the fourth period, and that looked to have buried the Rocks.
But they rallied in front of a raucous home crowd, as Warren Gillis made a triple and Will Hall capped a run of 11 straight points. Tuck’s experience kept Sheffield ticking over, causing trouble inside and making his free-throws, but they couldn’t hold the Rocks off down the stretch. Riley Grabau scored twice from long range in the closing minutes to get the final deficit down to 91-79.
That margin may be significant, as anything above 15 would have meant that Glasgow needed their biggest ever win in Sheffield to progress. But it’s still a tall order, as they have only twice won there in double digits in BBL history and Sharks finished the regular season with a run of eleven straight home wins – Glasgow being the last side to beat them at the English Institute of Sport.
Glasgow Rocks 80 (11,36,48) (Bunyan 22, Gillis 21, Achara 9)
Sheffield Sharks 91 (19,43,71) (Brooks 25, Tuck 20, Odister 15)