In a season full of great moments it was perhaps fitting that the current campaign came to a close with the two teams putting on a show for a crowd of almost 13,000 at London’s O2 Arena.
The question pre-game was whether the Sharks could stop the Riders’ relentless march towards a treble and from the outset it was apparent that a classic final was on the cards.
Riders’ TrayVonn Wright got the game off to a great start with a crowd-pleasing dunk on the opening possession but it was the Sharks who enjoyed the better of the early-going as they jumped out to a 13-7 lead.
It wouldn’t last too long as the Riders hit back to take a 22-18 lead of their own going into the second quarter and they would remain in front for eight minutes until the Sharks hit back with some great three-point shooting — a trey from Brandon Hogg giving the side from Sheffield a 44-43 edge at the half.
It was close throughout the third period but the Riders gained a foothold late on as they went on a 7-0 run to lead 66-59 heading into the final ten minutes of the game.
The Riders continued to keep their noses in front but with five minutes remaining there was the decisive stretch of the game as the Sharks went on a 14-0 run.
With Mike Tuck and Jerrold Brooks hitting big shots the side from the Steel City delivered the ultimate knockout blow as they surged into an 80-71 advantage, having previously trailed 71-66.
The Riders would not go down with a fight but it was it was all in vain as Atiba Lyons’ Sharks held on for a deserved victory.
“This feels really good,” said Sharks’ Brandon Hogg.
“I struggled a little bit, but I had my teammates back me up and come through in the clutch, and knock down big shots.”
“We’ve been down in those kinds of situations a number of times this season,” he said of the Sharks’ late 71-66 deficit.
“But we’ve learned from them and it showed as we didn’t panic.
“We just kept making plays and getting defensive stops.”
In a double celebration, Sharks’ captain Mike Tuck would also take home the Most Valuable Player award after an impressive haul of 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“This victory is a testament to how hard we worked this season,” he insisted.
“This win will be huge for us and boost our awareness in the city. With a future move into a new venue, we couldn’t ask for anything better than this.”
“In terms of the support, the Sheffield fans were amazing today,” he added.
“I saw more yellow in that crowd than I did red, so thank you to everyone that came down and supported us.”
“It was a great game – I think we missed too many shots around the basket today,” said Riders’ coach Rob Paternostro, whose side still walk away from the season with an impressive Championship and Trophy double.
“They hit some really timely shots, some contested, while we dried up a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
And for this season, that’s a wrap!
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