Mersey Tigers 88 (19,43,68) (Aliu 22, Thomson 17, Jones 15) One Health Sharks Sheffield 75 (12,34,56) (Tuck 19, Babalola 18, Dagostino 11)
Mersey Tigers have one hand firmly on the BBL Championship title and with it effectively ended their opponents hopes of prising the title from their grasp as the Tigers picked up a hard-fought 88-75 victory over the One Health Sharks Sheffield at the Echo Arena on Tuesday evening.
The Tigers travel to the Newcastle Eagles tomorrow night knowing that a victory over the Eagles would effectively secure the League title.
The game started tightly with both sides trading baskets and four points from Olu Babalola gave the Sharks the lead at 7-8, but a Nate Reinking basket sparked a 10-2 tear to hand the Tigers the lead at 17-10 which they held onto and lead 19-12 at the end of the first quarter.
A David Aliu three-pointer took the score out to 22-12, but the Sharks got themselves right back into the game thanks to a 10-3 burst, including five points from Mike Tuck, to trim the deficit back to just three points at 25-22. A further three-pointer from Steve Dagostino trimmed the gap right back to two points at 31-29, but the Tigers finished the half the stronger as three’s from James Jones and Andrew Sullivan sent the Tigers into a 43-34 lead at the half off the back of a 12-5 burst.
In the second half, the Tigers stretched their lead thanks to some impressive outside shooting from Jones and Andrew Thomson to help the home side to a 57-41 lead after a 12-3 run midway through the third quarter. The Sharks began to find some resistence for the Tigers onslaught as the third period drew to a close and the visitors bagged 10 of the final 16 points of the quarter to leave themselves trailing by 12 points at 68-56 heading into the final stanza.
Five points from Aliu at the start of the final period helped the Tigers to their biggest lead of the game at 77-58 off the back of a 9-2 burst, but the Sharks tried desperately to get themselves back into the contest thanks to a 13-5 tear to trim the deficit back to 11 points at 82-71 with 2:59 remaining in the contest.
Despite the valiant fightback from the visitors, the Tigers held their nerve in the closing stages and free-throws from Reinking and Sullivan ended the contest to give the home side the all-important victory and leave them with one hand on the trophy.
Aliu (pictured) led all scorers in the game with 22 points for the Tigers, while Mike Tuck led the scoring for the Sharks with 19 points personal.