Basketball: History against Sharks' treble

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The Independent Online
JUST ONE medal is missing from Peter Scantlebury's collection. But if England's record holder for international caps and league appearances is to add a Budweiser Championship play-off medal this weekend, Scantlebury and the Sheffield Sharks will have to buck the trend of statistics and history surrounding the season's finale at Wembley Arena.

Having already won the National Cup and the ultimate prize of the last- ever league championship - next season has been reorganised into conferences - the Sharks are there to be shot at as they chase a rare treble.

Sheffield play London Towers in tonight's first semi-final, before the league runners-up, Manchester Giants, face Thames Valley Tigers, last season's beaten finalists.

The 35-year-old Scantlebury said: "It's great to be back because I've not played at Wembley for six years. But whatever happens, this has been the best season of my career."

Quite a claim for a player who won the league championship with Tigers in 1994, the League Trophy with them in 1994 and 1995 and the National Cup with Bracknell 10 years ago and Sunderland in 1991.

Scantlebury is just happy to be at Wembley after Newcastle Eagles cut him in mid-season. Sharks' coach, Chris Finch, was grateful to find such an accomplished replacement for Matt Gaudio, after his career was ended by injury.

Scantlebury said: "I felt under pressure when I arrived because the team were 13-1. If it had fallen apart, fingers would have pointed at me. After being cut by Newcastle I felt I had a lot to prove."

History is against Sheffield. They have lost in the semis on their three visits to the play-offs and the league winners have not won the Wembley title since Worthing Bears in 1993.

Towers were the last team to win a treble (League, Trophy and Cup) in 1996, while Sheffield's target of league, cup and play-offs has not been achieved since Kingston won all four domestic titles in 1990 and 1992. Next season's reorganisation means Kingston's achievements will never be equalled.