It was the moment which surely sent the British League title heading the way of Brighton Bears.

The moment which finally edged them towards a crucial overtime success over closest rivals Sheffield Sharks on a night of high tension at the Brighton Centre.

And, when that landmark moment came, it was classic Rico Alderson.

Thirty-four seconds to go in the extra period and Bears, having twice lost double-figure leads and let resilient Sheffield back into the game in the dying moments of regulation time, trail 81-80.

Alderson is at the free throw line. The first shot is good. All square. The second is off target, his sixth free throw miss of the night.

But Alderson, as he often does on his second attempt from the line, is already moving in for the rebound. He grabs the loose ball, finishes with a dunk and Bears, at 83-81, have the lead they were never to lose.

Seconds later, Richard Windle's potential leveller is off target, Alderson grabs his 15th rebound of the night, then Mike Brown clinches the win with two free throws.

Love him or hate him, and most followers of British basketball do one or the other with a passion, you cannot ignore Alderson.

Quite what makes the character they call The Birdman tick is a mystery. His refusal to do interviews adds to the enigma, though the one line he uttered on the record, a brash "I'm the best goddam player this club has ever had," fitted in perfectly with his on-court persona.

He was certainly the best player on Saturday, though Kendrick Warren and Sharks' Justin Phoenix and HL Coleman pushed him close in a game which, with its high stakes, dramatic twists and tough defence, felt like a European tie.

Brown, who like Alderson missed the chance to settle matters from the free throw line late in regulation time, said: "Rico played out of his skin again. That's his mentality. He's out to win and he's got to be animated to do that.

"He keeps everyone happy. That's his style of basketball. We all get on and you'll see him yell at people on court but it's good to have a character like that because it keeps everything in check."

For 38 minutes, it seemed Bears would not need Alderson's late heroics, notably in an 11-0 second-quarter run.

Sullivan Phillips scored after his clever cut to the hoop was picked out by Yorick Williams' pass, Andrew Alleyne had an alley-oop finish, Williams hit his only three and Jason Siemon struck twice for a 36-25 lead.

Sharks, in a chilling reminder of their third-quarter surge in last season's win at the same venue, were level four minutes after half-time but Bears responded.

They led by 12 when Warren hit two free throws with 7:21 to play and were 72-68 up when Alderson went to the line 35 seconds from time.

Then it all went wrong. Alderson missed twice, Coleman hit a three, Brown made just one of two free throws and Lynard Stewart tipped in with 3.8 seconds left to level at 73-73.

Warren hit the first three points of overtime but fouled out soon after, with Windle taking full advantage to send Sharks into an 81-78 lead with 86 seconds to play.

Phillips' drive and finger roll dropped obligingly to cut the arrears to a point, Sharks were forced into a shot clock violation and then Reinking was called for a blocking foul on Alderson, setting the stage for drama and, ultimately, celebrations.

Brown, though, warned: "I'm not even thinking about the title. If you start thinking about it too early it gets away from you. We play Sheffield on April 14 and that's when I'll start thinking about getting a medal."

For the moment, thoughts of that dramatic Rico moment in the final seconds will do for Bears and their fans.