Sharks saviour Nick Lewis determined to extend Playoffs run -

Sharks saviour Nick Lewis determined to extend Playoffs run

Nick Lewis is being hailed as the saviour of Sheffield Sharks’ season by his team-mates after coming up clutch in the quarter-final win over second seeds Leicester Riders.

The former GB U20 guard sent the game into overtime with an offensive putback in the dying seconds after Leicester had taken the overall lead in the tie with a late charge.

Conner Washington netted a three to make it 78-65 with 21 seconds left with the Riders up by two on aggregate.

Sheffield’s general BJ Holmes ran down the clock for the final shot, but his effort fell short. Fortunately for the Sharks, Lewis reacted quickest and his basket extended the game beyond regulation (see below).

Speaking about the shot that forced overtime, Lewis joked that it was something they planned out of the timeout.

“It was just a case of right place at the right time,” he said after. “I knew that BJ would take his shot because we trust him in that situation.

“I probably had the best angle on the court and I could see it was going short, so I just followed it up and was able to get the ball and put it in.”

Sheffield were buoyed on by Lewis’ late save with Holmes and John Barber netting some big triples to give their side the edge and they would close out a historic victory, winning 164-159 on aggregate, despite losing 91-85 on the night.

It was historic in the sense that 7 seeds don’t usually beat 2 seeds in the BBL playoffs, but the Sharks league placing belittles their ability, and current form and so it proved as they toppled a strong Leicester side. And Lewis likened the result to the 2013 BBL Trophy Final when the Sharks overcame the odds on that occasion.

“It was definitely a big boost for us as the underdogs in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not happened too many other times where the seventh seeds have beaten the second seeds so it’s given us a big lift.

“We did it before being the underdogs in the Trophy final a few years back. It’s better for us being the underdogs and we go out there with nothing to lose.”

Sheffield gained the upper-hand after winning the first leg at home by a comfortable margin of 11 points to take into the return leg at Loughborough. After the Riders wiped out the deficit early on, the visiting Sharks battled to regain the advantage they had built, before the thrilling finale ensued.

“It’s a little weird with the first-leg, second-leg format knowing you are winning, but still down in the game,” said Lewis. “We were obviously in the better situation, and we were just trying to win the game anyway, and not pay too much attention to that.

“We felt like we can beat anybody in these playoffs and we pulled through with a great team effort. We have to build on that now going forward.”

Next up, treble-winners Newcastle Eagles await in the semi-finals with the playoffs run not getting any easier for Sheffield. The Eagles swept the regular season series, but Lewis feels they should think twice if they expect to roll the Sharks over.

“We haven’t played them in a while, and were a different team back then,” Lewis said. “We will make it hard for them at our place, and we’re definitely not going to make it easy for them.

“They are obviously a top team, and it’s going to be a very tough game. We just need to play hard, give it our all and come together on the defensive end.”

Lewis was one of the top British performers in the BBL this season; finishing with a total of 489 points in the regular season – doubling his tally from his first two seasons with the Sharks. And there’s been plenty of highlights along the way this season with Lewis killing a backdoor lob from BJ Holmes, dropping Fab Flournoy with a nasty crossover and hitting a dagger three in the BUCS Final 8s.

The 22-year-old has coped well with a number of different roles with his versatility a big advantage for his side. Lewis is usually the go-to guy off the bench, but has started on occasions this season as well as being trusted to run the point by Head Coach Atiba Lyons.

“I just have to come out and play hard whatever role I play,” said Lewis. “I’ve been able to adjust to whatever has been asked of me, and I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve played – it’s definitely been my best season in the BBL.”

Lewis resides from Toronto in Canada, and after attending Our Saviour New American High School, he arrived in Sheffield to begin his pro career – not too far from the English equivalent of his hometown Scarborough.

The familiar surroundings and returning group of core players have helped eased the transition of overseas life as a pro. And Lewis believes he has benefited a lot from his time in Sheffield, raising his game

“I’ve learnt a lot from BJ,” he said. “It’s been great being able to go to him for advice, and learn from him. My team-mates have definitely made the whole experience enjoyable – and they really helped make the transition from playing High School in the States a lot easier.”

It hasn’t been the smoothest of seasons for the Sharks as a slow start to the campaign saw them as low as 10th with just four wins from their opening 10 games.

Their fortunes improved in the new year, and the acquisition of former player, and league MVP, Mike Cook helped the team gather some momentum as they posted eight straight wins in the build-up to the playoffs.

And Lewis believes that the momentum and the experienced heads of Mike Tuck and Olu Babalola play an important factor at this stage of the season.

“The playoffs are completely different from the regular season,” he said. “We have our veteran guys like Mike and Olu that help the team pull through, and that’s important in the playoffs – just like it is in the NBA.

“That rubs off on the younger guys like me, and we all want to go as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The ultimate goal would be to lift the Playoffs title at the O2 Arena on May 10th, and while Lewis is desperate to make it happen, he accepts that the path ahead won’t be straight-forward.

“It would mean a lot to me to go on and win the whole thing,” he said. “It’s been a rocky season for us, with a lot of losses, but I’d say our chances are still pretty good.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game against Newcastle, but we’re definitely ready.”

Sheffield host the league champions in the first leg on Friday, before playing the return leg at Sport Central on Sunday. In the other semi-final, London Lions face Cheshire Phoenix with Friday’s first leg at the Copper Box Arena shown live on BBL TV.

Check out Nick Lewis taking over in the 2013 BUCS Trophy Final

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