Sunday 21st January 2024
British Basketball League Trophy
Cheshire Phoenix 78 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 70
The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks went down to a 78-70 defeat on the road at Cheshire Phoenix in the final British Basketball League Trophy group stage game. With the semi-final line-up already decided, both sides chose to change up their rotations – Cheshire in a bid to keep their players fit for the Birmingham showpiece and the Sharks with a view to the imminent resumption of the regular season. Malek Green equalled the highest score by a Shark this season with a 24 point, 11 rebound double-double but was unable to steer his side to victory on this occasion.
Phoenix: Wild, Hudson, Ulph, Stephens, Chargois.
Sharks: Ramsey, Pipkins, Ratinho, Nichols, Koch.
Cheshire rested key men Laquincy Rideau and Aaryn Rai in view of their upcoming semi-final but saw another crucial part of their team in Ethan Chargois leave the game early with a finger injury. Returnee EJ Stephens shot the ‘Nix into an 11-10 lead but Malek Green continued where he left off the previous evening with 9 points as the Sharks went up by 16-21. An RJ Eytle-Rock free throw left the Sharks in front by 19-22 after the opening 10 minutes.
An even second stanza saw the Sharks maintain their lead by half time. Nate Montgomery’s three made it 23-27 and the visitors took a nine point differential on a Bennett Koch bucket at 30-39. Marcus Delpeche’s hook shot kept the Sharks ahead at 36-41 late in the half as a Jack Hudson lay up sent the teams in with a three point gap at the interval.
Malek Green’s energy and varied game ensured the Sharks kept a third period lead. His drives to the hoop as well as work in the low post saw him garner 9 points as his side stayed in front but never fully shook off their hosts. Jordan Ratinho’s triple took the score out to 50-56 but a Cam Holden hook kept Cheshire in touch at 55-59.
The opening five minutes of the final stanza saw the Phoenix fight back. Back to back threes from Greg Wild saw them back in front at 65-63. The battling Bennett Koch closed the gap to one with a tough and-one play but a Skyler White three swung the momentum back Cheshire’s way at 74-68. The Sharks committed late turnovers, choosing to learn from the encounter rather than ruthlessly pursuing a result and it was a Holden jam that wrapped up the win for Cheshire at 78-70.
The minutes were evenly shared between the 11 man roster as the Sharks looked ahead to the resumption of league play in a fortnight. Two players were key contenders for the MVP award. Bennett Koch continued to lead from the front. His 17 points were made on 7 of 9 shooting, allied with 8 rebounds and 2 steals for another captain’s innings. Malek Green made it back to back MVP awards however. He recorded a very healthy 26 efficiency rating for an explosive 24 point, 11 rebound double-double to show he has assimilated into the Sharks roster very quickly.
Surrey Scorchers v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Friday February 2nd 2024, Surrey Sports Park, 7.30pm Tip Off.