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Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Cheshire Jets 86-89 Sheff Sharks


Sharks, Jets and dunks at BBL Cup final

By Emlyn Begley
BBC Sport at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Sheffield Sharks hung on to win their first BBL Cup title in six years after a stunning fightback by Cheshire Jets.

The BBL Championship leaders had looked like they were cruising to victory at Birmingham's NIA, leading by 18 points early in the final quarter.

The Jets, inspired by 24-point MVP James Hamilton, pulled the deficit back to three points but fell just short.

Perry Lawson held his nerve for Sharks, with four free-throws late on with Jets down by just three on both occasions.

The victory meant that the Sharks lifted their first silverware since 2004, when they won the play-off and cup double.

And it was the first trophy of Sheffield player-coach Atiba Lyons' coaching career.

The Jets had taken the initiative early on, Chez Marks opening the scoring with a three-pointer, and led 18-13 towards the end of the first stanza.

But Sheffield hit back with the final 11 points of the quarter in a 17-2 burst to take the lead, one they never looked like relinquishing until late on.

The Jets were looking frail defensively and Sheffield were taking advantage, going ahead 66-48 early in the final quarter.


The turning point in the direction of the game was three two-pointers in a matter of seconds for Cheshire, who were breaking down Sheffield attacks at will.

They still trailed by 12 points but it had given them hope of a comeback, as both teams continued to swap points.

Four free throws from Hamilton in quick succession made the score 79-71 and when the game's dominant force batted the ball out of his team's danger-zone moments later, the Jets fans sensed something special was on.

The sense of expectation was increased when Sharks' Michael Tuck missed his free throw, before Hamilton pulled the score back to 81-78.

But Jets' Paul Peterson missed two free shots of his own with the score at 83-80 and Lawson's cool head made the difference as Sheffield held on for their win.

Marks scored 22 points, with Mike Cook leading the way for Sheffield's scorers with 19.

Sheffield player-coach Atiba Lyons told BBC Radio Sheffield:

"I feel great. I probably wasn't expected to win something so quickly in my tenure as head coach.

"A year and a half into it, it gives me more confidence as a coach. You're always unsure if you're doing the right things.

"Sheffield is a great basketball city. They support the team through thick and thin. I've been here for four years - we've had some good seasons and some bad seasons and you see the same faces.

"When you stay here long enough, you want to win it for them. They go to all the away games - Worthing, Plymouth. We don't even want to do it and we're playing. To win something for them, I'm speechless."

Cheshire Jets coach Paul Smith told BBC Radio Merseyside:

"I'm really frustrated. We were dominant in the fourth quarter - why did we leave it until then?

"I'm hoarse now from trying to get the guys going earlier than that.

"We have enough talent in this team to have won that game, possibly comfortably.

"But no disrespect to the Sharks. They deserve it and they won it as they played for four quarters."

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