Sheffield Sharks became the first side ever to retain the BBL Cup, as they destroyed the Mersey Tigers, 93-66 in Birmingham.
New York-born, Steve Dagostino hit 35 points on his way to MVP honours, as he torched the Tigers, hitting 8/10 from behind-the-arc.
“I’m just happy we won,” Dagostino stated after receiving his MVP trophy.
“Ever since I got into Sheffield, all the guys that were here last year were telling me that the BBL Cup is a huge deal and that we wanted to retain it, and I’m just happy that we won for the organization.”
Like last year, Sheffield enjoyed a double-digit lead against Cheshire Jets, only to lose that lead and win it the hard way. There was no evidence of that today; Sharks outplayed their Merseyside opponents from tip to buzzer.
For the Mersey Tigers, it was simply a bad day at the office – Great Britain international, Nate Reinking was suited up, but played no part in the contest, as David Aliu, coming off a one-game ban for his DQ at home to Worthing Thunder led the scoring in vain with 21 points.
Sharks set the early pace, in what was a scrappy first four minutes of play. Back-to-back triples from Dagostino gave the Yorkshire outfit a 12-6 advantage, and Paul Williams and Mike Tuck extended the lead further, as the Tigers looked out-of-sorts on both ends of the floor, and it was the Merseyside club who were down double digits at the end of one (10-20).
Sheffield’s defence was upped further, as Tigers had to wait until the third minute to register their first field-goal with an Andy Thompson jumper, an Andrew Sullivan dunk narrowed the gap slightly more, but Sharks were not to be denied, as threes from Olu Babalola and Ryan Patton gave Sheffield a 42-19 lead with 2:29 left in the second.
In the first half alone, Tuck was looking good for the MVP award, after a sublime first two periods. Tuck finished with 18 points overall.
“I just wanted to play hard, I knew it was a big game for the club and for the fans, so I just wanted to play as hard as I could,” Tuck said.
It was Dagostino though who began to heat up towards the end of the second quarter – hitting two of his three free throws at the end of a one-sided first half, giving Sharks a commanding 51-25 lead, going to the locker-rooms.
A further 9-0 further outlined Sheffield’s dominance, as five straight points from Dagostino gave the Yorkshire outfit a 62-31 lead – and despite a mini Tigers revival, led by Sullivan, Sharks were still rampant, leading 74-46 after three, thanks to veteran-Shark, Adrian Anderson connecting on a lay-up..
The final quarter was virtually a no-contest, very scrappy. Dagostino, who continued to drain threes, left, right and centre and Babalola were the main players in Sheffield’s push for final quarter glory, further extended the lead, half-way through the final stanza to 84-57 as both teams continued to fight tooth-and-nail for each loose ball – but the game was, by then way out of the Mersey Tigers reach.
Tigers coach, Tony Garbalotto put down the defeat mainly to the absence of Reinking, but was full of praise for Atiba Lyons and the Sharks squad.
“We missed Nate (Reinking) not just because of his scoring, but because of his defence, he would of allowed (Steve) Dagostino to dominate the game like he did. He (Reinking) locked up Trey Moore which was the key to us beating Newcastle,” Garbalotto claimed.
“You have got to give credit to Atiba Lyons – first of all, he the guts to start three small players and we had to battle against that, so credit to him (Lyons) for that. Plus when (Steve) Dagostino made two threes in a row, that really broke the game open and it led to our downfall”
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Birmingham.