Mike Tuck and Sheffield Sharks looking to rewrite recent history against Newcastle Eagles

A 26th successive trip to the British Basketball League’s post-season speaks volumes about the longevity of the Sheffield Sharks, and is a league-leading accolade they are rightly proud of.

Mike Tuck gets a shot in for Sheffield Sharksagainst Leicester Riders back in February (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Mike Tuck gets a shot in for Sheffield Sharksagainst Leicester Riders back in February (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

But that sustained level of achievement is tempered by the fact they have gone on to win those play-offs on just two occasions. Indeed, the Sharks have won 14 trophies throughout their near-30 year association among British basketball’s elite – the third most – but none since the last of their pair of play-off titles back in 2016.

Two wins from 25 play-off attempts is a statistic they are keen to rectify, continuing tonight against the Newcastle Eagles, in the first of a two-legged play-off quarter-final. No team can match the Sharks for their play-off appearance record but if anyone can laud it over them for their ability to win the league’s showpiece final, it is the Eagles, who have won it six times.

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Indeed, the Eagles are the most successful team in the sport’s history in Britain, with 27 major trophies.

Sheffield Sharks' Mike Tuck (Picture: Dean Atkins)

Throw in the fact that the Eagles finished fourth after 30 games of the BBL Championship this season, with the Sharks fifth, and you have the most eagerly-anticipated and evenly-matched tie of the quarter-final stage.

“We’re overdue a play-off title, that’s for sure,” said Sharks captain Mike Tuck who was named play-off final MVP (most valuable player) in their 2016 win over the Leicester Riders.

“I’ve been lucky to win four pieces of silverware in my 12 seasons with the club, a fifth over the coming weeks would be incredible.”

They will have to do it the hard way if they are to succeed. Due to Covid and games continuing to be played behind-closed-doors, the British Basketball League pre-selected two venues to host all eight quarter-final ties; Newcastle and Worcester.

Mike Tuck carries a threat at both ends of the floor (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Newcastle host Sheffield tonight (5pm) with the second leg set to be played in Worcester on Thursday (5pm) meaning Sheffield will not have any home-court advantage.

“We’re not worried, we’ve had some great games up there and we’re confident in that gym,” said Tuck, who helped the Sharks win twice against the Eagles in Newcastle in the regular season.

“We’ve been playing our best basketball in the last month. Atiba (Lyons – head coach) has got us hitting our stride at just the right moment. We kind of got the team that we wanted to face up against in this first round. Not to take anything away from Newcastle they’re a great team, but a team we have beaten comfortably before.

“We know what we’re in for, we couldn’t have got a better outcome in the first round.

“It’s a great group of guys here, they’re all young and hungry. They’ve seen guys in this league go and get silverware that they and I thought we should have been in the running for.

“We set goals at the beginning of the season and this is one of those goals to get to a final and win it. For some of these guys it’s their first taste of professional play-offs.”

For Canadian-born forward Tuck it is a 12th trip to the post-season, at the end of a campaign in which at 38, his status with the team has evolved into that of reliable role player.

“I’ve figured out what my role is this year. Maybe it’s not the role I once had – being a go-to guy, getting a lot of shots in – but I still have a lot to offer out on the court, trying to lead by example.

“I can still put the ball in the basket, still defend, still get up and down the court. I’m happy to be here. There’s not a lot of guys my age still playing professional basketball.”

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