Sheffield Sharks ready to turn tables on Newcastle Eagles again

It is not often in a play-off format that the team ranked below their opponent has enjoyed the better of the regular-season match-ups.

However, that is exactly the advantage the Sheffield Sharks take into their BBL play-off quarter-final with Newcastle Eagles this weekend.

Sharks finished sixth in the BBL Championship to the third place of the Eagles, some eight points adrift, yet the South Yorkshire club won all three meetings between the two.

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The last of those came just nine days ago when they claimed a 104-86 victory to complete the series sweep and maintain their 100 per cent streak of qualifying for the play-offs.

Mike Tuck: No fan of play-off format.Mike Tuck: No fan of play-off format.
Mike Tuck: No fan of play-off format.

“Traditionally, they’re a tough team for us but we have matched up pretty well against them this year,” said Sharks captain Mike Tuck.

“They’ve had a couple of injuries to key players so we were able to use our size against them, but I can definitely see them suiting up this weekend.

“Even if they do, we are hitting our stride at the right time. We’ve played some really good basketball in the last month or so after a lot of change of personnel throughout the season that has led to periods of inconsistency.

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“But timing-wise, we’re coming together at the right moment.”

It is an evenly-matched tie that will be decided over two legs this weekend, with tip-off at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield today at 5.30pm, with the return leg in Newcastle at 5pm tomorrow.

The tie will be decided on aggregate score, as has always been the way in British basketball, a difference to his native North America that Tuck has never warmed to.

“I just don’t think it’s basketball. I’d much prefer a play-off series which they’re looking at introducing next season,” said Tuck, in relation to discussions over five-game series as next year’s play-off format.

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“Anything can happen over the next two nights and it doesn’t matter what position you finished in it’s how hard you play and how much momentum you have.

“For me, being the lower-ranked side is an advantage for us. I always relish the underdog role, you have less pressure on your shoulders and we’re the type of team that doesn’t shy away from the challenge.”