In further proof that supporting the Shanghai Sharks is bad for your health, the boys from the Yuanshen held on against a frenzied late fight back from the Jiangsu Dragons to record their second away win of the season but more impressively, have now won four out of their last five games. Coach Panaggio will be pleased with how his side kept its cool amidst the ebb and flow of gritty defense and instant fast breaks to ultimately dismantle an underperforming but still dangerous Dragons side.
With Liu Wei and Tseng Wen-ting off the injury list and back into the starting line-up, a reinvigorated Sharks side got stuck into their foes with added bite but to their credit, the Dragons gave as good as they got. As the game progressed, the two sides showed little intention of giving ground in a game that both teams really had to win if they were to repair the damage following their respective poor starts to the season.
There were hefty duels aplenty as the first half progressed and in the middle, Jackson Vroman and Zhang Zhaoxu were having an almighty ding-dong in the trenches of the other man’s backcourt. Indeed, there was little between the two teams, whose coaches had evidently reminded their charges that this game was a must-win fixture.
Vroman, with able support from Liu Yahui, was causing Shanghai problems after the halftime break, but in equally measure, the Sharks captain, Liu, and the usual suspects of RFK , Mike Harris and Meng Lingyuan were also keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
The game was rolling along nicely and it was shaping up to be a ‘whoever blinks first’ affair. Shanghai had the lead but the Dragons had the home crowd and as a tight game entered the fourth quarter, the match was still very much up for grabs.
Yet, within a minute or two of the restart, the Dragons did indeed blink, opening the door for the Sharks’ American duo to come crashing in and open up a decisive advantage against the home side. RFK, playing against his former team, showed no mercy to Jiangsu, and got involved in a sudden splurge of points that also saw Harris and Ji Xiang make their mark on proceedings. Suddenly, the Sharks were ahead 77-68 and the home side had to chase down a score with time ticking away rapidly.
Shanghai, who are contractually obligated to give their fans heart problems, had to survive a late Jiangsu shooting streak via Liu and Yi Li’s hot hands, but in the end, the Sharks just about squeaked home in another traditional nail biting climax to win 98-96.
Indeed, come the final buzzer, six Sharks players got double digits; Harris (26 points + 11 rebounds), RFK (22), Meng (12), Liu (10) and Ji (10), in what was a tough win on the road against a side that could have done damage if the Sharks hadn’t shown them the proper respect. Indeed, the Dragons fought with gusto and certainly didn’t play like a team that was 3-10 but Shanghai did exactly what they had to do and kicked a team when they were down. Hard.
The Beijing Ducks are coming to town on Sunday and the positivity of four-wins-from-five is an ideal tonic for a game that the Sharks will probably be underdogs in. A gutsy squad coming into form just in time for a game against their deadly rivals; it appears Coach P got what he wanted for Xmas after all.
Photo: Sina Sports