Friday 29th January 2021
Leicester Riders 75 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 73
The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks went nose to nose with the high-flying Leicester Riders in a thriller at their Morningside Arena, going down to a late Geno Crandall basket. The Sharks matched the Riders defensive intensity all the way and the game looked destined for overtime thanks to Jordan Ratinho’s corner three point score. However, Crandall, an early candidate for league MVP, came up with the late floater that sealed Leicester’s narrow win.
Riders: Crandall, Lee, Johnson, Jackson, Nelson-Henry.
Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.
The Sharks went with the experience of Mike Tuck in the starting five and it paid off in the opening stages as the vet came up with the putback that gave the Sharks a 2-7 lead. Corey Johnson drained a huge three but it was Kipper Nichols mid-ranger that tied matters at 11 apiece. Johnson connected from downtown once more but it was the Sharks who finished strongly on Callum Jones ‘and one’ play with the score at 16-17.
Tables turned early in the second, Jamell Anderson’s ‘and one’ giving the Riders a 22-19 lead. A 2-10 run, bookended by Nichols three point score saw Leicester calling for time with the score at 24-29. Three pointers from Johnson and Lee hauled the Midlanders back into the contest at 30-31 and the Sharks kept the Riders at arms-length until Nelson-Henry inched them back in front at 38-37. A Nicholas Lewis layup ended the half with the Sharks deservedly on the high side by 38-39.
Scores late in the third quarter saw the home side take a slight advantage. Mike Tuck’s ‘and one’ off a textbook pick and roll levelled matters at 43-43 and a Lewis trey did likewise at 49-49 going into the final three minutes. Two triples from GB point guard Conner Washington however inched Leicester into a seven point lead with the score at 57-50 going into the final ten period.
Antwon Lillard’s corner three kept the game in the balance at 61-56 and when the Riders hit the penalty with nearly six minutes remaining, the Sharks could sense an against the odds win. After another Washington triple, scores from Lillard, Ratinho and Tuck were followed by a clutch Hemsley three with the Riders calling for time at 70-69. Leicester’s Nelson-Henry fouled out with a minute to play. Washington made it 73-70 from the line but a Jordan Ratinho trey out of the corner levelled the scores at 73-73 with 9 seconds to go. Out of the timeout, Riders floor general Geno Crandall gave them a 75-73 lead with a floated effort and unfortunately, Lillard’s three point attempt failed on the final shot of the game, denying the Sharks the opportunity to take the game to overtime.
Mike Tuck, rewarded with a starting berth, demonstrated the defensive capabilities needed against the fancied Riders with a season best 8 rebounds to go with 9 points and an assist for an efficiency rating of 16. Almost as equally efficient was Kipper Nichols, who contributed 12 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal on an excellent 71% shooting effort. Bringing the energy and offensive threat was Jordan Ratinho. He gained the MVP plaudits for a stat-stuffing 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal, including that clutch three pointer that almost sent the game into an additional five minutes.
Sharks skipper Mike Tuck was understandably disappointed with the loss but proud of a significant improvement in his team’s performance.
‘Close games like that can be frustrating. We gave ourselves a chance to tie at the end but unfortunately things didn’t go our way. Really proud of how our guys fought today. Although it’s a loss, it is a massive step in the right direction.’
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Glasgow Rocks, Friday 5th February 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 6pm Tip Off.