Sunday 21st February 2021
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 57 Cheshire Phoenix 67
A fascinating tussle between two of the more in-form sides in the BBL ended with Cheshire Phoenix making a mid fourth quarter tear to take the win over the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks. The teams were neck and neck all the way until a pair of Jalen Hayes buckets gave the ‘Nix the momentum to get the win over the line. The Sharks now have an identical record to Cheshire in a share of fourth position as two more games remain of a tough February schedule.
Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.
Phoenix: Ross, Hayes, Carey, Gordon, Lull.
The Sharks came out at a tempo similar to that displayed in Newcastle on Friday evening and connected on five three point attempts in the opening quarter. Antwon Lillard opened affairs from the top of the key, quickly followed by Jordan Ratinho and Jeremy Hemsley as a 9-0 run saw them into a 9-2 lead. Cheshire followed with a 0-7 zip of their own, Kyle Carey’s steal and dunk sending the Sharks to talk it over at 9-9. Cheshire eventually took the lead through Matthew Bryan-Amaning but another Ratinho triple and a joyous Kipper Nichols trey from the corner after some terrific perimeter ball movement saw the Sharks up by 19-15. Baskets from Hayes and Ross saw the quarter end level at 19-19 however.
The nip and tuck nature of the contest continued throughout the second quarter. Ratinho sent Cheshire back to the benches with his twelfth point with the scores at 25-26. The free-scoring Kahron Ross maintained Cheshire’s slender lead with a huge three at 29-31 but Nichols dunk on the fast break put the Sharks ahead once more at 33-31. Giant centre Jimbo Lull and a Hayes free throw left the game in the balance at 33-34 come half time.
The Sharks took the third period by 15-11 but never quite managed to put daylight between themselves and the ‘Nix. A Ratinho corner three made it 40-39 and a series of incisive plays by Lillard saw the Sharks take a three point lead at 45-42. Cheshire finally paired big men Lull and Bryan-Amaning together, combatted by the veteran smarts of Sharks’ Mike Tuck and Rob Marsden as the home side headed into the final ten minutes at 48-45.
Cheshire captain Jalen Hayes drew the sides level at 48-48 with an opening three and was to go on and prove influential in their eventual win. Hemsley found his way to the hoop at 52-56 but back to back scores from Hayes saw Cheshire take a crucial 52-60 lead. They backed this up with some exemplary defence as the Sharks were forced into fouling to stop the game clock. Four points from Ross and three successful free throws from his backcourt partner Mike McCall saw them close out a tough 57-67 win.
It was a fascinating if low scoring contest and a degree of fatigue may have set in for the Sharks, once again missing the services of Nicholas Lewis and Johde Campbell. Capping a fine weekend was Jordan Ratinho. His energy and shooting was key to a solid first half as he went on to 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal, outscoring his former San Francisco University teammate Jimbo Lull on the Cheshire side, who finished with 7. The Sharks MVP on the evening however was Antwon Lillard. He again went into double-double territory to finish with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block and looked the man most likely to push the Phoenix all the way.
Post Game Interview
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Manchester Giants, Friday 26th February 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 6pm Tip Off.