Sheffield loss hands Giants title

The Fallibility of the Manchester Giants in sudden-death confrontations will not be put to the test in the Northern Conference at least, after Sheffield Sharks handed them the title on Saturday night by losing 104-101 at Newcastle Eagles.

The Fallibility of the Manchester Giants in sudden-death confrontations will not be put to the test in the Northern Conference at least, after Sheffield Sharks handed them the title on Saturday night by losing 104-101 at Newcastle Eagles.

After losing the National Cup and League Trophy finals in the last three months, Giants went into the weekend with the chance of having to face Sheffield on Saturday in the final game of the regular season to settle the Conference title. Sheffield saved them the bother, with Ralph Blalock leading the way for the Eagles.

Manchester now join the Southern Conference champions London Towers in pole position for the quarter-finals of the play-offs, but with the championship being settled by single sudden-death games on a neutral venue their only advantage is that each play the bottom club from the opposite conference in the opening game.

Nick Nurse, the Giants coach, said: "It's important for a lot of reasons. For one it gets you a trophy, which is what we all play for. It also makes sure that Sheffield and Towers are in the other half, but we're probably going to have to beat them if we're to win it."

In the quarter-finals, at Coventry's SkyDome on 22 April, Towers are joined by Birmingham Bullets, Thames Valley Tigers and Milton Keynes Lions from the south.

Giants, Sharks and Edinburgh Rocks qualify from the north, but Derby Storm's place in the last eight depended on Manchester beating Chester Jets last night, after the Storm lost 90-83 to the Rocks in overtime yesterday afternoon.

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