Friday 6th November 2020
BBL Cup Group Phase
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 70 London Lions 61
The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks toughed out an outstanding win over the much-vaunted London Lions as their BBL Cup campaign finally got under way. Defences were to the fore all the way and it took an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter for the Sharks to secure their first win. In a game where only two other players broke double figure scoring, there was an outstanding double-double for Antwon Lillard, making his competitive debut for the South Yorkshire men.
Sharks: Lewis, Lillard, Koch, Marsden, McKnight.
Lions: Robinson, Williams, Alihodzic, Taiwah, Liggins.
From the tip, the game soon established itself as a defensive affair. A Bennett Koch spin move opened the scoring but London took a 2-4 lead on an Alihodzic bucket. Back to back threes from ex-Cleveland Cavalier DeAndre Liggins saw the Lions up by 5-10 and a Justin Robinson score increased that to 5-14. The Sharks fought back through a Mike Tuck muscle move and six points from Kipper Nichols saw the quarter close with London narrowly in front at 18-19.
The Lions pushed out again at the top of the second quarter. Kevin Ware’s mid range jumper at 23-29 was immediately nullified by Tuck’s trey on the angle. Former Shark Dirk Williams eurostepped to an and one at 26-34 but Johde Campbell’s triple and a pair of free throws from the ever-involved Lillard saw the game nip and tuck at 34-39 by half time.
The third quarter was taken by the Sharks 11-7 but was possibly the point where they began to get under London’s skin. Mackey McKnight opened with a three and Rob Marsden assisted to Nichols for two in one of the plays of the game at 44-41. Liggins poured in five late points but the game was still evenly poised at 45-46 going into the fourth.
The sides traded buckets until midway in the fourth. Nicholas Lewis, whose evening had been curtailed through foul trouble until that point, put the Sharks up by 53-50 and the Lions hit their own penalty nadir with fully 5.29 left to play in the game. The Sharks capitalised through Nichols hook shot over Alihodzic and an outstanding three point score from Lewis, who was fouled by Williams in the process. Lewis’ free throw extended the Sharks lead to 62-50 and despite Liggins narrowing the gap to 62-57 with a shade over a minute remaining, the home side never really looked like letting it slip. It was fitting that Antwon Lillard closed the game out from the line as the Sharks looked delighted at a 70-61 success over the men from the capital.
Only three players on either side recorded double figure scoring so it was a relative formality to allocate the MVP honours. Kipper Nichols pulled off some crucial shots at vital times on his way to 14 points and 2 rebounds and the only other double figure scorer in the game was London’s DeAndre Liggins with 18. However, for an outstanding all round display on his birthday, debutant Antwon Lillard claimed the honour with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a block. Lillard was the standout on either side and it was his offensive drive that proved to be the difference in what was a fascinating defensive chess match.
Mike Tuck praised his team’s heart against a determined London side in what some pundits are calling the ‘Group of Death.’
London Lions v B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Friday 13th November 2020, Copperbox Arena, 7pm Tip Off.