TWO FREE throws from Todd Cauthorn, one second from the end of the second period of overtime, gave Sheffield Sharks victory over Manchester Giants in a epic struggle between the Budweiser League's top clubs at Sheffield Arena last night.
The win pulled Sheffield level with Giants in first place. Crucially, they have now clinched the three-game series between the teams 2-0, with the final game to be played in Manchester in two weeks time. Each have four games left, but Giants face the more difficult run-in .
The teams virtually fought each other to a standstill last night, with the 6ft 8in Cauthorn a tower of strength for Sharks over the last five minutes. Regulation time ended 89-89 after a single free throw from Tony Holley - 51 seconds from time - cancelled out a basket from Cauthorn seven seconds earlier.
Terrell Myers hit the target to put Sheffield 96-94 ahead 56 seconds from the end of first overtime before Giants' Tony Dorsey forced another extra period. Sheffield out-scored Manchester 10-2 on the restart, with Cauthorn hitting five, before Giants came back with John White, Jason Swaine and White again scoring three-pointers.
But White's foul on Cauthorn, followed by a technical foul, gave Sheffield the chance to seal victory.
Giants risk tempting fate tonight when they face London Towers at the MEN Arena and attempt to break the attendance records for a basketball game in the United Kingdom. The first target is the 10,001 recorded in the Guinness Book of Records who saw Birmingham Bullets beat Sheffield Sharks 100-88 in March 1997.
But the Giants' general manager, Jay Goldberg, hopes the ticket price of pounds 2 for all seats, and a promised visit by the Manchester United footballers Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, will take the crowd above the official 12,356 who saw Giants play Greater London Leopards in September 1995.
Goldberg said: "That crowd figure wasn't submitted to the Guinness Book of Records. Although we later proved the actual attendance that night was 14,251, the Basketball League only accept the lower figure. But the first aim tonight is to beat the attendance at the Birmingham game."
BUDWEISER LEAGUE Milton Keynes Lions 83, Leicester Riders 68; Sheffield Sharks 11, Manchester Giants 109 (double overtime).