Friday 26th February 2021
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 81 Manchester Giants 80
The B. Braun Sheffield Sharks held their nerve for an extremely hard-fought single point Roses derby win over traditional rivals Manchester Giants. The Lancastrians pushed the Sharks all the way and it took a clutch three from skipper Mike Tuck and a vintage Rob Marsden finish in the paint to seal the season head to head. An efficiency rating of 24 saw MVP honours for Bennett Koch, who finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds ahead of Sunday’s visit of second-placed London Lions.
Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.
Giants: Cassell Jr, Satchell, Ulph, Whelan, Johnson.
The first half was an extremely back and forth affair as neither side was able to break away from the other. After Giants’ recent signing Justin Satchell’s triple gave the Mancunians a 4-5 lead, it took scores from Koch, Hemsley and Nichols to restore the Sharks lead at 15-9. The theme of the night followed; any Sharks lead was soon wiped out by their visitors, Satchell’s and one score being a case in point. Bennett Koch used his hook shot to good effect with six points as the opening quarter closed at 21-18.
The sides continued to trade baskets to the mid-point of the second stanza. Back to back threes from Manchester’s Donovan Johnson put the red rose side in the lead by 29-30 and although a Kipper Nichols trey righted that at 36-32, big shots from Sam Cassell Jr and Justin Satchell and a further pair from the line by Cassell saw the Giants into the locker room at 43-44.
The Sharks looked to have finally broken Manchester’s resolve in the third quarter. Frustrations boiled over as Coach Atiba Lyons collected an early technical foul with the Giants up by 48-52. However, this inspired the Sharks to a 10-0 run as a pair of Hemsley treys saw them take a 58-52 lead. Jordan Ratinho converted off a Rob Marsden offensive rebound to take the lead to ten at 66-56 and despite four points from Johnson, the Sharks looked in command at 68-60. A determined Manchester side fought back strongly at the beginning of the fourth period. David Ulph, despite teetering on four fouls, jammed home twice as a furious Coach Lyons called for time with the score at 72-72. Ulph exited the game shortly after, as did Sharks’ Kipper Nichols and it took a Jeremy Hemsley steal and basket to level matters at 76-76 inside the final three minutes. It took a couple of veteran plays and some strong work in the paint from Bennett Koch to seal the narrowest of Sharks victories. Skipper Mike Tuck drained a three from the top of the key at 79-76 and a solid finish from former Giant Rob Marsden in the paint gave the Sharks an 81-78 lead. The Sharks were deemed not to have inbounded the ball within the required time with 4.2 seconds remaining as the Giants drew up their final play. Fortunately, Cassell’s shot rimmed out in the face of a tough defensive effort from the home side as the Sharks secured an 81-80 success.
The relief was palpable as the Sharks secured the narrowest of wins over their rivals from across the Pennines. There were several performances of note however. The glue guy once again was Kipper Nichols. He went about his work quietly and efficiently, including some fine finishes under the hoop to record 16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. He is a volume scorer and regularly fills the statline so tonight was no different for Jeremy Hemsley. 19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block were again just reward for the Sharks greatest offensive threat. Flirting with a triple double was Antwon Lillard. Two rebounds and one assist would have hit the magic target for Lillard, who finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals. The MVP with an efficiency of 24 was centre Bennett Koch. The Wisconsin native was a constant nuisance in the paint for Manchester as the Sharks channelled their offence through him to register 16 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Post Game Interview
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v London Lions, Sunday 28th February 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 3pm Tip Off.