Liu Wei was once again a clutch player for the Sharks.
Despite the season ending injury to Ryan Forehan Kelly, a gutsy Shanghai Sharks team had enough in the tank to see off a limited but direct Fosham Dralions team and continue to push up the CBA table after winning 95-88 at home.
If only to demonstrate that the 5-12 Dralions weren’t going make things easy, the first quarter was dominated by Foshan, who quickly deployed their pounding centre, Marcus Douthit, to great effect. Between him and Egyptian guard, Michel Maadanly, Foshan battered and stretched the Sharks defence into giving up 28 points in the first 12 minutes as the home team struggled to find any momentum.
A big performance was needed in the second quarter and Mike Harris was more than happy to oblige, and in the time he had to work with before the halftime buzzer, the American was practically faultless. Now the boot was on the other foot and Harris, aided by some useful baskets from Feng Tian, turned on the style as the Sharks outscored the
Dralions 30-12 in the second period and opened up a 50-40 lead at halftime.
But when the game restarted, Shanghai soon found themselves being drawn into a close-quarters street fight and Foshan, with Douthit as it’s battering ram, were slowly eating away at the Sharks’ lead with rebounds, lay ups and trips to the free throw line.
Shanghai wasn’t completely impotent however, and the shooting of Feng, Liu Wei and Wang Yong (who had started at small forward in the place of Forehan Kelly) were wounding Foshan everytime the away side slacked off on defense. When Feng dropped two gigantic treys in a row, midway through the fourth quarter, suddenly a score that was getting close to being tied now stood at 84-76.
There was still time for Foshan to give the home side a headache when Zhang fouled out and Panaggio had to send in his second-choice big, Wu Yang, against the marauding Douthit.
It could, and perhaps should have been a decisive shift considering that the the burly American was maintaining his advantage against his Sharks markers and had brought the score back to 90-88, but with the game on the line, Liu Wei stepped up with the crucial play.
Calling for the ball on the edge of the D, the captain cut outside before darting back along the free-throw line and delivering the ball inside the rim for the decisive basket before converting the foul shot that came with it, now making the score, 93-88.
When Foshan went down the other end but failed to convert their chance, the Sharks then showed them how it was done when Harris drilled in his shot from long range and the game was done. The Sharks had once again showed their mettle at the crucial time and had a 95-88 score line to show for it.
An impressive five players had double-digit scoring performances; Harris’ double-double (25 points, 14 rebounds) stood out the most but crucial contributions from Feng (15 points), Wang (14), Liu (13) and Meng (12) were equally important to victory against a gritty Foshan side.
In his press conference afterwards, Coach Panaggio was defiant in the face of suggestion that losing Forehan Kelly would be the end of the Sharks season. ‘The team never doubted we could win. These guys have a lot of pride. They wanted to prove the critics and the cynics wrong’, stated Panaggio, before singling out the performances of Harris, Wang, Wei and Feng for their part in the victory. As a reward for their team effort, he added, the side would be given the day off tomorrow.
Panaggio was coy about any potential new Sharks signings and didn’t yield any clues about the replacement for their departed American forward, instead wishing to focus on the hard work and mental strength of his side. The Sharks will need all of this when they travel to Hangzhou to face third place Guangsha Lions on Sunday.