Friday 12th February 2021
Newcastle Eagles 70 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks 90
A superb exhibition of team basketball led the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks to a convincing victory over second-placed Newcastle Eagles at the Eagles Community Arena. The Eagles led on the opening two baskets of the game but were then swept away with a display of solid defence as five Sharks made solid double figure scores. The win cements fifth place in the league for the Sharks ahead of the Valentines Day visit of leaders Leicester Riders to Ponds Forge.
Eagles: Pflueger, Maxwell, Edwards, Gordon, Fletcher.
Sharks: Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley.
Back to back buckets for Newcastle’s Evan Maxwell opened the game but that was as far as it went for the high flying Eagles. Antwon Lillard drained a corner three as the Sharks took the lead, matched by Jeremy Hemsley and compounded by Jordan Ratinho at 6-10. Mike Tuck, influential on defence in the early stages as ever, hit a big shot from the top of the key at 12-17 and Bennett Koch came from the bench to make it 14-24 on the hook shot. Despite a mid-range Darius Defoe jumper, a scoreline of 18-26 reflected an impressive start for the Sharks.
The second stanza was an altogether more defensive affair. Tuck gave the Sharks their biggest lead of the game at 20-31 on a contested three but Newcastle crept back into the contest on a similar effort from Rex Pflueger. Former league MVP Rahmon Fletcher hit his only points of the half to draw Newcastle as close as 31-33 but a Hemsley triple and a Koch basket saw the Sharks take a deserved 33-40 half time lead.
The Eagles would only hit 9 points in the third quarter as the Sharks put on a defensive masterclass. Kipper Nichols eurostepped his way to a highlight play at 33-45 and Hemsley capped a 0-10 run to make it 33-50 with his ‘and one’ effort. Koch slammed home one handed on an insightful Nicholas Lewis assist to make it 42-58 and further buckets from Lillard and Rob Marsden closed the period at 42-62.
The contest truly unravelled for Newcastle as Justin Gordon, who posted a huge double-double in their previous game, fouled out of the contest with eight and half minutes still to play. The Eagles raced into a timeout as Koch made it 51-71 on a Nichols assist, who became scorer himself at 58-79 on Tuck’s dish. Newcastle emptied their bench with just under two minutes to play, such was the Sharks dominance as two late Johde Campbell treys capped a comprehensive 70-90 win for Atiba Lyons’ side.
It doesn’t happen often but it was impossible to pick a standout in a terrific display of Sharks basketball. Leading all Sharks scorers was Antwon Lillard with 15 points, who contributed 7 boards to a team rebounding effort. Kipper Nichols did all the intangibles for his 14 point, 2 rebound, 3 assist, 1 steal statline, a point scoring effort matched by Bennett Koch. Jeremy Hemsley dished the dimes on his way to 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists as did Nicholas Lewis, who set up his colleagues on 9 occasions. Jordan Ratinho provided his usual energy with 8 points and 5 rebounds and skipper Mike Tuck turned provider with 5 assists to go with his 12 points, which included vital triples. The contribution across the board had team running through it and for once it was a delight not to be able to select a true MVP.
Captain Mike Tuck was pleased to see the Sharks make it a three-peat of wins.
‘It was great to see the momentum from last weekend and all the hard work in practice all week come together in tonight’s win. We are playing together and looking more and more like a team every day. The job is only half way done as we are looking forward to playing the Riders on Sunday.’
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks v Leicester Riders, Sunday 14th February 2021, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, 3pm Tip Off.