Sunday 7th March 2021
BBL Championship
Cheshire Phoenix 75 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 69

A close-fought 75-69 defeat on the road at Cheshire Phoenix saw the home side edge ever closer to the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks in the BBL Championship table. The ‘Nix claimed their third league win of the season over the Sharks as their injury-hit roster defended home court to go 10-9 for the campaign. The Sharks got as close as within three points going into the final minute of play but now face another tough weekend in a bid to push on from fifth place in the standings.

Starting Fives

Phoenix: McCall, Ross, Hayes, Carey, Lull.

Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.

Key Moments

Cheshire were missing key players, forcing Assistant Coach Josh Houghton to suit up, but it didn’t seem to affect them in the opening exchanges as Jimbo Lull hit a big three to make it 5-2. Lull and Sharks’ Antwon Lillard traded baskets until Jeremy Hemsley’s and one play closed the gap at 11-9. The free-scoring Kahron Ross climbed into an alleyoop at 17-12 and GB’s Kyle Carey hit a triple on the buzzer to see the Ellesmere Port outfit up by 22-14 after one quarter.

The second quarter panned out better for the Sharks. After ‘Nix bencher Robbie Graham hit a trey at 31-21, Hemsley injected life into the Sharks offence with a steal and score followed by Lillard, who connected from distance at 34-26. Kipper Nichols with a putback, Lillard (2) and a pair of Bennett Koch free throws concluded a 14-18 quarter in favour of the Sharks with the half time score at 36-32.

Cheshire’s shortened roster were wary of managing their foul count but achieved it sufficiently to take the third stanza. Phoenix skipper Jalen Hayes, quiet until this point, came to life with seven points in a 10-4 run at 46-36 and his triple, followed by Lull’s and one score saw Cheshire into a sixteen point lead at 56-40. Six Bennett Koch points led a Sharks mini-run of 0-8 but Kipper Nichols fourth foul and Ross’ mid range two kept Cheshire in charge at 60-50.

Jeremy Hemsley and Antwon Lillard went big as the Sharks closed to 64-60 in the middle of the final stanza. Their efforts were matched by Mike McCall late in the shot clock and Sheffield hopes rose as the influential Hayes left the game with his fifth foul. Hemsley was adjudged to have cut the line with a big two point score as the Sharks made it a one possession game at 67-64 with a shade over a minute remaining. The Sharks entered the penalty inside the final thirty seconds and still retained hopes of an upset on Koch’s and one play at 72-67 with 18 seconds left. Trips to the line for McCall and Carey sealed the win for Cheshire however with the final score at 75-69.

MVP

The Sharks recovered from shooting 33% in the early stages to eventually hit the 40% mark. Leading that effort was Antwon Lillard, who finished just shy of a double-double with 21 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals. Only a solitary point behind was Jeremy Hemsley. As usual, he filled most categories to eventually finish with 20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and a block. Continuing a rich vein of form however was Bennett Koch. He drew eight fouls to make himself a nuisance in the paint, eventually finishing with 16 points, 8 rebounds and a block and another MVP award.

Post Game Interview
Next game

B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Worcester Wolves, Friday 12th March 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 6pm Tip Off.

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Adam Bates