What a joy it is to have Paul James back in the BBL as well. Paul is one of the top British coaches that we have and individuals of his calibre need to be in our game.
Now on to the blog; following the fantastic/outrageous weather in the North West of England (personally I love the snow) I decided that the safest thing would be to head out good and early for Sheffield.
This meant leaving Manchester at about 10am for the 3pm tip off. As it happened there were no traffic problems on the M62 or M1 so I arrived in Sheffield in good time to visit the fabulous Meadowhall Shopping Centre. Lots to buy but when you’ve got no money it’s also a great place to window shop.
From here it is on to the ‘eat as much as you like’ Chinese Restaurant before arriving at the EISS. Been quite a while since I was last here but it’s all the same. The sirens are on the floor going through some new routines and it’s all good.
No one is quite sure what team the Worcester Wolves are going to bring today. They hadn’t played for a couple of weeks as they had been given time off to get a new team together. Now personally I had no doubt that they would have a competitive team. How did I know that? Well with Paul James at the helm it was never going to be anything different.
Paul James is a legend of the British game and he has had fantastic success in his coaching career both at the Thames Valley Tigers and the Guildford Heat. Reading through the Sharks’ programme there was no team list for the visitors so we would have to wait for them to arrive. The first game back for the team was the previous evening when they overwhelmed the London Capital 91-69.
Well they arrived and little did I know what an incredible sporting day I was in for. Just before the start of the game the news came through that Leeds United had defeated Manchester United in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. It’s called the 3rd round but it is the first time that the Premier League teams enter the fray and United were gone at the hands of one of their bitterest rivals.
It couldn’t get any better than this today…could it?
Well what a game we were in for on this Sunday afternoon.
To be honest I only recognised two of the Wolves players and they were Harry Disy and Daniel Gilbert and I had seen Petroslav Zafirov once before when he played for Worthing Thunder.
The man of the moment for the Wolves was the joyous Rod Middleton who simply ran every aspect of the game for Head Coach Paul James. He would be one of three players who would play every one of the 45 minutes of this game. The others were Gilbert of the Wolves and Cook of the Sharks.
The first half was rather like two boxers checking each other out but we did get a taste of what was to come. Tafari Toney started like a train while Mike Cook took his time getting going. Perry Lawson had started the game in place of the injured Ryan Patton who assured me he was going to be ready for the Sharks next game.
The Wolves had a good all-round start and by the end of the 1st all of their starters would be on the score sheet. The score at the end of the 1st was 18 to the Sharks and 19 to the Wolves. The Wolves had nailed 3 from beyond the arc.
On to the second stanza and it was more of the same as Middleton stuck a triple to open and gave the Wolves a 4 point cushion. For the next minute of game time…an eternity in real time, neither team could score and there were misses galore. Eventually Normantas would stick a two and the Wolves would lead by 6, his ‘and 1’ would increase the lead to7.
It took the introduction of Adrian Anderson to spark the Sharks into life. It is an odd situation that sometimes a single player steps onto the court and his intensity starts to get things going. When Mike Cook stuck a triple on the Anderson assist the scores would be tied at 28 a piece. At the half the Sharks held a comfortable 42-35 lead, but anyone who thought this one was over really doesn’t know Paul James’ teams.
Mike Cook had 18 points and was definitely enjoying his game. For the Wolves Middleton had 9 while Gilbert had 8.
So onto the third and it was on but nobody had bothered to tell the players. It would be almost 2 minutes before we would have our first score and that would be a triple from Pepe Zafirov. Now it was a 4 point game. From here the Sharks would go to work with Todd Cauthorn, TAP, and Cook all getting on the score sheet. With 4:17 left in the 3rd the Sharks had a 15 point lead…the biggest of the game.
Rod Middleton was not done yet a steal…a lay up followed by a triple…then another triple and suddenly the lead was cut to 4.
At the end of the 3rd it was a 4 point game 56-52. WOW!
Matt Gorman flushed a monster to open the scoring in the 4th. When Perry Lawson added another 2 the lead was back to 8, however with less than 6 minutes to play the scores were tied for the 4th time, 64 a piece. From here it was a battle royal as Cook, TAP, and Atiba all kept the score ticking over for the Sharks while Normantas, Middleton and Gilbert kept the Wolves in this one.
When Mike Cook made 1 from the line the Sharks led 73-71 with 1:19 to play. Normantas then nails a monster 3 to give the Wolves a 1 point lead 73-74Middleton then makes 2 from the line and the Wolves lead is extended to 3.
Time out Sheffield who are down 3 with12 seconds left on the clock.
The Wolves might have thought it was over with a 3 point lead with 12 seconds left to play but they hadn’t counted on Mike Cook.
The ball is in bounded, Atiba passes to Mike Cook who nails a monster off – balance triple and we are tied 76 a piece…OVERTIME!
Although the overtime period was at times close the Sharks controlled this stanza well and Cook … again, Tuck and TAP all ensured that the win would be secured by the home team. The final score was 90-88.
Mike Cook led all scorers with 32 points while Tafari TAP’ Toney added 19 points and 16 rebounds. Mike Cook went 12 for 13 from the freethrow line and added 5 rebounds and 2 back to back blocks.
For the Wolves the star was Rod Middleton with 29 points including 5 for 8 from the arc.
This had been a battle of royal proportions and we had been tied 8 times with 10 lead changes. The biggest lead was 15 when the Sharks led 53-38.
At the end of the game it was a joy to congratulate both teams on what had been a truly joyous occasion.
And so it is back in the car for the drive home over the Woodhead pass. I am able to listen to the final FA Cup game of the day as West Ham United are entertaining Arsenal at Upton Park and they are leading 1-0. I would like Arsenal to win but I am contented that if West Ham won it would still have been a great day. I have got a real soft spot for Gian Franco Zola and I do hope they manage to stay in the Premier League.
Arsene Venger makes a couple of substitutions and they turn it around. The Gunners win 2-1 and my fabulous sporting day is over.
It does not get much better than this!
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