Play-Off Final 2004
Sheffield 86 (18,
Chester 74 (19,
It's not how you
start. It's how you finish.
On the final day
of the domestic campaign, Sheffield Sharks saved the best to last and were
duly crowned as BBL Championship play-off champions, defeating Chester
Jets 86-74 at the National Indoor Arena.
Ten years in the
league, it was the first time Sheffield had claimed the one prize which
had thus far been so elusive, a victory punctuated with Most Valuable Player
Lynard Stewart's game-ending dunk capping his game-best 25 points haul.
20 years a pro but
never a victor in this competition, coach Peter Scantlebury likewise completed
his medal collection and a rookie campaign on the bench which has reaped
two of the four BBL prizes.
Mike Nurse dished
open the game's opening score from three point range but in a first half
that went tit for tat for its first 16 minutes, Sheffield immediately levelled,
going in front for the initial time at 12-11 midway through the opening
With the game starting
in a quickfire tempo, Chester - with Billy Singleton coming off the bench
- closed the period with a 7-1 run to lead 19-18 but the Yorkshiremen started
to truly ignite when their backcourt caught fire.
Tied at 30-30, a
9-2 Sharks breakaway would ultimately represent a decisive turn in the
contest and with Calvin Davis in foul trouble, the BBL Cup winners took
full advantage, building on their 44-38 half-time cushion with seven unanswered
points at the outset of the fourth.
Jets lacked energy,
Hamilton joining Davis on three fouls to undermine their side's strict
rotation system. Nurse, on fire from long range, hit two treys in a 10-2
burst which reduced the deficit to five with 5:41 left in the quarter.
Paul Smith's men
chipped away, pressing full court in a bid to unsettle their long-time
rivals. Twice in two plays, they stripped Sheffield and duly punished,
Nurse draining an improbable score from eight metres in a 7-0 run which
left the Sharks just 56-55 ahead.
Rob Yanders stopped
the rot with the final four points of the stanza but with the game finely
poised, a fourth foul picked up by James Hamilton heaped more pressure
on Chester's remaining Fab Five.
John McCord, the
MVP of this game two years ago, tried his best to step up despite a heavily
strapped leg but in a frenetic spell, Sheffield stole a 67-59 march which
proved utterly invaluable.
With his team still
nine in arrears with 2:21 left, Smith threw the last dice with a time-out
but even his masters of the late fightback could not pull this one off,
coming now closer than five as Hamilton fouled out 30 seconds later.
"It feels great,"
said Scantlebury. "This has been a long time coming for me but the guys
played so well."
The Northgate side
can spend the summer plotting a bid to defend their monopoly on the Trophy.
Sheffield, despite their slippage in the league title race, go on holiday
with smiles on their faces.