Occasionally spellbinding, sometimes hard on the eyes; tonight’s victory against Jilin Tigers was a mixture of poetry and uppercuts as Shanghai Sharks crashed the boards and chased down their opponents when they had to but still found the time to dazzle the crowd when the opportunity presented itself.
From the start, Shanghai seemed in control and via the quick hands of Peng Fei and Liu Wei, quickly opened up a lead that the Sharks never lost. Mike Harris came on for Ryan Forehan-Kelly (hereby known as RFK to prevent the constant abuse of my hyphen key) at the start of the second quarter and quickly made a small lead something far more substantial. The Sharks led 42-23 at the break.
Emerging after the interval, Jilin’s duo of troublemakers, high-scoring forward, Cartier Martin, and courtside general, Jordanian point guard, Osama Daghlas, probably didn’t expect to be 42-23 down or anticipate what was to come shortly.
Indeed, at times during the third quarter I was reminded of playing an old Street Fighter game, specifically when you hit the buttons in the right order and made something awesome happen. In this insistence, the combination of Lui, Harris and RFK produced the same effect and Coach Panaggio will have savoured the flashes of magic from the sidelines as his team continued to handle their business with more than a little touch of swagger.
To their credit, Jilin kept on fighting until the very end but it was effectively for pride alone. The game seemed decided well before the fourth quarter thanks to the earlier outbreak of blistering shooting, and the Sharks were content to slow the game down amidst the boisterous noise from the home fans.
When the final buzzer came, Shanghai could celebrate another victory, this time to the score of 85-67. Harris finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds, RFK made 16 points with seven rebounds whilst Liu (14), Peng and Zhang Zhaoxu (both 10 points) all scored in double figures.
Sunday may well be different but the Sharks felt reborn tonight, albeit under a passionate home crowd.The Sharks will obviously lose again but for now at least, two compelling victories on the trot give both hope and momentum to a side that this time last week had none of either.