The first spot in the BBL Trophy semi-final will be sealed on Friday evening as One Health Sheffield Sharks host the Rocks at the English Institute of Sport.
Sharks reached the quarter-finals with an 85-73 overtime win at Manchester Giants while Rocks overcame Scottish rivals City of Edinburgh Kings, and the prize for Friday’s winner is a two-leg last four tie. The final will take place on Saturday 9 March at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, so there is certainly plenty of incentive for the Rocks to reach the title game.
Rocks head into the game in fifth spot in the BBL Championship table with an 11-8 record, while Sharks are eighth with seven wins from 12 games.
Sharks’ forward Andrew Bridge is looking forward to a weekend off of Championship action: “We’ve been better in these kind of games, so it’s important that we come out and have a good start, we always play better when we start well. We didn’t start well in Newcastle and although we were okay in Glasgow it could definitely have been better.”
The sides met in Glasgow last week with the Rocks comfortably winning 85-65, and with Sharks also losing at Newcastle, Bridge admits it was a difficult weekend for his team: “Obviously it wasn’t good, they were two pretty convincing losses and came after we thought we’d improved a bit and had been on a good run. We didn’t show that over the weekend. And I was more disappointed with the performances that the result.
“We need to pick ourselves up and move on, that’s the important thing.”
Bridge is clear which players the Sharks need to do better against: “Everyone, really! They shared the ball pretty well, and it was one of those games for us whatever we tried to do didn’t work. They have a pretty balanced attack, and we couldn’t really stop anyone. You can’t stop everyone every game, but we’ll need to change our game-plan this week more pressure.”
The Sharks will be hoping that home court advantage plays its part on Friday, as they won both of the previous encounters in the steel city this season. A thrilling 72-71 victory against the Rocks in November saw Atiba Lyons’ team seal a place in the BBL Cup semi-finals, and they repeated the victory with an 83-74 success in the Championship the following month.
Rocks’ player-coach Sterling Davis knows the Sharks are a tough side to play on their own court: “We have seen very good performances on both occasions we have faced this team on the road. They have closed very well against us so it is something we have to adjust to.
“Mike Tuck really played well against us last time we were in Sheffield. We have to be able to match his energy and keep him off the boards.”
Davis was pleased with his side’s performance against the Sharks last weekend: “I thought it was a good team performance. Conceding 65 points in any game is an accomplishment so I was proud of our guys for that. Mike Ringgold played a great game for us with a double-double of scoring and rebounding. We have been waiting for that breakout game from Mike and we finally got it.”