Basketball: Myers in moment of magic

Manchester Giants 85 Sheffield Sharks 87
BRINGING THE league championship down to their last game of the season was not enough for the Sharks and the Giants. Terrell Myers took it to the very last second yesterday, slotting home an 18ft jump-shot to land Sheffield the title in front of 11,143 fans at the MEN Arena.

Myers sold the sweetest fake to two Manchester defenders before launching his shot and he was buried by team-mates, the coach, Chris Finch, and the bench players before the ball had barely swished through the net.

But the 25-year-old from New Haven, Connecticut, was on familiar territory. Last season his final-second shot won the League Trophy for Sheffield. This time he added the league title to the National Cup they won in January to repeat Sheffield's double of 1995.

"I said to Travis [Conlan] in the locker-room before the game, `Give me the ball and I'll win it.' If I get the ball I always believe I am going to hit the shot. I was as good as my word," Myers said.

Although the championship has been settled before in the final game, never in league history have the two prospective champions faced each other in their last fixture with the title still in the balance.

Sheffield should have clinched it last weekend but nerves at the free- throw line cost them an 84-81 defeat at struggling Chester Jets. That gave Manchester a second chance after their title hopes appeared to fade with the previous weekend's defeat against London Towers.

Finch, the first person to win the league as a player and a coach with the Sharks' in 1995, said: "We've come through a tough week but we brought it down to the last shot. It's ended up being a fantastic week."

But nerves stiffened the shooting fingers. Sheffield hit just two out of 12 three-point attempts in the first quarter as the teams struggled to score at even 30 per cent from open play.

When John White opened the scoring with a three for Manchester it proved to be the biggest lead of the first quarter, before Myers and Kevin St Kitts also swapped three-pointers to tie the first quarter at 17-17.

Incredibly, Giants never led again as the Sharks reverted to their slower game to exert a tenuous, but what proved to be unshakeable, control.

They led by eight and nine points in the third and as many as 10 in the fourth, but the Giants always hit back. Whenever big-name stars White or Tony Dorsey hit the spectacular shot, Sheffield's blue-collar workers, Todd Cauthorn, Iain McKinney and Michael Payne, responded.

Before his winning shot, Myers made a play to break the hearts of the majority of fans in the second biggest crowd to watch a basketball game in England. With the Sharks clinging to an 84-83 lead, he missed a three- point attempt but then raced back to block a shot by St Kitts.

Peter Scantlebury, choosing this game to become the first player to make 500 league appearances, scored one free throw to give Sheffield an 85- 83 lead before Dorsey tied the game from the line.

Then, from an inbounds ball with just three-and-a-half seconds left on the clock, Myers took the pass then made time stand still to give the title to Sheffield.