By Marko Vranic
B. Braun Sheffield Sharks’ recent away day blues continued as the London Lions proved too clinical in their 93-81 victory at the Vertu Motors Arena. A fourth successive away defeat, the result of high scoring figures from the hosts and missed chances from the Sharks, pushes the Sharks down to 7th in the overall standings.
Lions – Parker, Williams, Spencer, Tawiah, Liggins
Sharks – Nichols, Ratinho, Tuck, Lillard, Hemsley
A quick start from the Lions, including a 14-1 spell, allowed them to set the pace of the game in a first quarter that was at times very cagey. The Sharks struggled to adapt to the Lions’ fast tempo on offense, affording Tawiah too much space in the paint while failing to contain dynamic ex-Shark Dirk Williams. Yet they fought their way to an 8-0 run to tighten the gap ahead of the second quarter, Jeremy Hemsley’s brilliant alley-oop on Fahro Alihodžić from Antwon Lillard’s pinpoint assist the Sharks’ main highlight from the opening phase.
The Lions continued to build on their lead in the second quarter, with Alihodzic’s physicality proving challenging. The Lions imposed a full court defense on a number of occasions, suffocating the Sharks on both ends of the court, producing errors from the Yorkshire side. As well as this, Sharks marksman Hemsley was often doubled up on in possession, a clear strategy aimed at minimising his shooting capability from range. These tactics pushed the Lions ahead 46-35 at HT.
The third quarter was a constant frustration to the Sharks, with each of their scores seemingly met by endless Lions’ three-pointers. Williams (posting 25 points against his former side) was the key architect, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Lions’ lead to 17, at 57-40. Once again, Williams’ prowess from range (9/12 from the field) undid all the Sharks’ hard work in making it uncomfortable for their opponents, and maintained a 15-point gap with the fourth quarter left to play.
Despite Bennett Koch’s consistent scoring off the bench and impressive shooting from Hemsley, the Lions were relentless on offense, with Williams accounting for two additional 3-pointers in the final quarter, and the creative Deandre Liggins amassing 18 points and 10 assists. Further free throws from the latter allowed the Lions to see out victory comfortably.
In a game where the Sharks will be left unhappy with their finishing, Kipper Nichols was among those to impress, with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists the reward for his effort. However, the MVP award belongs to Jeremy Hemsley, whose 21 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists made the game competitive throughout.