Tuesday 17th November 2020
BBL Cup Group Phase
Newcastle Eagles 97 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 87
The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks staged a fourth quarter fightback on the road in Newcastle but it was a case of too little too late as they fall to 1-2 in Group 3 of the BBL Cup. Eighteen second half points from Antwon Lillard helped the Sharks reduce the crucial basket difference but a monster 25 point, 12 assist game from Eagles nemesis Rahmon Fletcher saw the win remain in the north east. The Sharks now look to regroup with the visit of in-form Leicester Riders to Ponds Forge on Friday evening.
Eagles: Pflueger, Maxwell, Edwards, Gordon, Fletcher.
Sharks: Lewis, Lillard, Koch, Marsden, McKnight.
The opening stages were reasonably even – Antwon Lillard drained a three at 10-9 and Rob Marsden’s lay up put the Sharks in front at 12-13. However, the visitors took their foot off the gas in the latter stages as Maxwell (5) and a Fletcher ‘and one’ saw Newcastle close the quarter in front by 24-15.
Things unravelled for the Sharks somewhat in the second period. After Mike Tuck’s trey at 26-18, technical fouls on Bennett Koch and Mackey McKnight aided the Sharks into penalty trouble with fully 6.48 remaining in the quarter. Justin Gordon’s triple saw Atiba Lyons calling for time at 35-22 and a succession of trips to the line for the home side, capped by Fletcher’s lay up saw them looking comfortable at 40-23. A sprawling ‘and one’ from Nicholas Lewis gave the Sharks a glimmer of hope but a buzzer beating three from Eagles veteran Drew Lasker saw them in command at 47-29 by half time.
The Sharks did at least come out with greater purpose after the break. A couple of mid-range scores from Koch were tempered by back to back corner threes from Louis Sayers as Newcastle remained in charge at 60-34. The Sharks’ Lewis and Eagles’ Maxwell traded scores from downtown but the Sharks encountered a new issue as Kipper Nichols collected his third and fourth fouls of the game. McKnight converted a three after a neat move involving Lillard and Tuck but former league MVP Fletcher finished the stanza on a ridiculous triple with the score at 75-55.
With basket difference potentially proving crucial in the group, the Sharks set about reducing the arrears in the final quarter. They suffered Nichols leaving the game on his fifth foul with a minute gone but a neat Lewis catch and shoot three brought them within fourteen at 78-64. Bennett Koch continued a profitable night at 86-72 and eleven points from Lillard inside the final three minutes saw the Sharks take the quarter by 22-32. However, it was the Eagles who took the contest by 97-87 and the Sharks now face a huge game against Leicester on Friday.
Nicholas Lewis shook off a couple of uncharacteristic quiet games to fill the statline with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. There was a second twenty point haul for Antwon Lillard, eighteen of which came in the second half as he finished on 23 points, 3 rebounds, a steal and a block. However, it was the grit and determination of Bennett Koch that shone through on the night. As well as his usual fight in the paint, he stepped out and finished well at mid-range on several occasions on his way to a fine 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Coach Atiba Lyons was magnanimous to his opponents for the evening.
‘Tough game for us. They played really well and shot the ball at a high percentage. I think mentally getting it to 10 will help us but we will have to play better basketball for 40 minutes.’
Captain Mike Tuck reflected on the latest difficult encounter in the Cup’s most challenging group.
‘Another tough one for us. We went away from what has worked for us early and had to play catch up for the rest of the game.’
‘I thought we showed some fight through the second half but it was too little too late. We will learn from this one and have a great opportunity to bounce back at home on Friday.’
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Leicester Riders, Friday 20th November 2020, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 6pm Tip Off.