BBL Championship
Friday 19th February 2021 – Newcastle Eagles v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks
Sunday 21st February 2021 – B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Cheshire Phoenix

It’s a swift return to the North East for the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks to take on the Newcastle Eagles, the side they defeated by 70-90 only last week. The difference this time? It’s in front of the Sky Sports cameras and you can be sure the Eagles will be out for revenge. On Sunday, the Sharks welcome the consistently inconsistent Cheshire Phoenix to Ponds Forge, a side that clearly have talent in abundance but haven’t always demonstrated it fully as yet.

What to expect – Newcastle Eagles

The Eagles were uncharacteristically off form last weekend and the Sharks used their new-found confidence to clinically sweep aside the BBL Cup winners. Under double figure returns for the likes of Rahmon Fletcher (8), Cortez Edwards (6) and Justin Gordon (5) are virtually unheard of and it is clear that a very different game will play out on Friday, especially with the national TV cameras in the gym. Newcastle returned to form on Sunday, negotiating a tricky away trip to Bristol and coming away with a 66-74 win. Fletcher poured in 25 points with a trademark 6 assists and there were solid 15 point returns for Evan Maxwell and Cortez Edwards. The Eagles maintain that second place in the league with a 10-3 record and will present as formidable a task as ever especially under the bright lights and in their own arena.

What to expect – Cheshire Phoenix

The ‘Nix currently hold seventh place in the table with a 5-7 record but clearly have the potential to climb much higher. They are 4-3 on the road and visit the Sharks having entertained Worcester and London earlier in the week. Cheshire’s front court pairing of Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who was already averaging 15 points per game with 8.7 rebounds from his spell with Worcester, and Jimbo Lull, former team-mate of Jordan Ratinho and contributing 17.5 points per game with 8.6 rebounds, look as good as any in the league and the backcourt looks equally dangerous. Mike McCall was already well known from his stint in Manchester and is dishing out 4.1 assists per game and makes the ideal foil for Kahron Ross, putting up 16.8 points per game with 6.1 assists. The rest of the roster displays the necessary attitude and talent that will enable Coach Ben Thomas to steer them to the upper echelons of the standings in the very near future.

Shark Watch

A split weekend last time out but the Sharks continue to demonstrate progression and growing confidence. Last Friday’s win in Newcastle was one of the most complete in recent memory to the extent that it was impossible to select an MVP such was the ‘team’-based nature of the display. Under normal circumstances, 93 points against leaders Leicester would also be a winning position but their undoubted talents and the rub of the green not quite going the Sharks way saw the Riders take a high scoring win. There remain lots of positives for the Sharks – their defensive intensity has increased and has formed the bedrock on which some scintillating offence has played out. Scoring now comes from all across the court and there is a clear belief that they can dominate their opponents. Long may it continue!

Last time out

Newcastle Eagles (Defoe 18 Maxwell 17 Fletcher / Matthew 8) 70 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Nichols 14 Koch 14 Lillard / Hemsley 13) 90

B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (Hemsley 21 Lillard 18 Koch 16) 82 Cheshire Phoenix (Lull 27 Ross 20 Hayes 18) 92

Fans Corner

We are back in front of the Sky Sports cameras this coming Friday as our road game at Newcastle Eagles will be broadcast on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Arena. The show begins at 7pm with the game tipping at 7.30pm. On Sunday, we welcome an exciting Cheshire Phoenix outfit to Ponds Forge for a 3pm tip. As ever, you can catch this game on the BBL Player (www.bblplayer.co.uk). We’re half way through our eight game February programme – here’s hoping the second half is as exciting as the first has been!

Next game

Newcastle Eagles v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Friday 19th February 2021, Eagles Community Arena, 7.30pm tip off

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Adam Bates