Thursday 3rd December 2020
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 82 Cheshire Phoenix 92
There was to be no dream start to the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks BBL Championship season in front of the Sky TV cameras as they went down to a ten point loss at the hands of Cheshire Phoenix. The ‘Nix, who finally managed to get their full roster together after problems with Covid-19, were led by 27 points from new signing Jimbo Lull. Jeremy Hemsley top scored with 21 for the Sharks, growing into his role ahead of their next game against Surrey Scorchers on Sunday.
Sharks: Lewis, Lillard, Koch, Marsden, Hemsley.
Phoenix: McCall, Ross, Hayes, Gordon, Lull.
Phoenix new signing Jimbo Lull opened the game with big dunk and Jalen Hayes three saw them take an early 2-5 lead. Lull went on to compile 12 points in the quarter, hitting triples to show his all round game, the second of which made it 14-25 on five of five shooting. For the Sharks, Bennett Koch proved to be almost his equal, claiming 10 of his own as a fascinating battle opened up between himself and the Cheshire centre. However, it was the visitors in this game played on neutral territory who claimed the spoils by 18-27 after 10 minutes play.
Nicholas Lewis went back to back from downtown, the second of which came from a neat kickout from Jeremy Hemsley as the Sharks drew to within six at 28-34. Indeed, Hemsley claimed his first points as a Shark with a trey at 35-42 and followed that up with a steal and bucket moments later. Lull went one of two from the charity stripe in the dying embers of the half, Koch unfortunately picking up his third foul as a result with the half time score at 37-47.
A much better defensive display saw the Sharks take the third quarter by 26-18. After Cheshire’s Hayes opened with a three, Hemsley replied in kind following some impressive team ball movement and when Lewis dropped a further triple, the Sharks fightback was well and truly on. The consistent Antwon Lillard capped a solid stanza with five late points as Sheffield drew to within two at 63-65.
The final period began with a Kipper Nichols ‘and one’ play and when Hemsley ran in another bucket the Sharks finally took a 68-65 lead on the back of a 14-1 run. Bennett Koch picked up his fourth foul with 6.13 left to play as the Phoenix found their shooting range once more. Hayes and Mike McCall increased their lead out to 70-84 and despite the best efforts of Hemsley (3) and Lewis (and one), a series of trips to the line saw Cheshire eke out the win at 82-92.
Bennett Koch mixed it with Cheshire’s Lull in the early stages but foul trouble curtailed his evening to end on 16 points with 2 rebounds. Nicholas Lewis did his share of ball handling and closed with a respectable 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Antwon Lillard brought the energy as usual, filling up his statline to conclude with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. The award went the way of debutant Jeremy Hemsley however. Gaining his clearance with just minutes to spare, he visibly grew into the game and finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal in an impressive shooting display.
Atiba Lyons spoke warmly of debutant Jeremy Hemsley and the unknown quantity of Cheshire post-game.
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Surrey Scorchers, Sunday 6th December 2020, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 3pm Tip Off.