Sheffield Sharks held off a late third quarter comeback by Cheshire Phoenix to claim their first head-to-head series of the season with a 72-66 victory at the Northgate Arena and end the weekend joint-leaders of the BBL Championship.
Cheshire Phoenix: Middleton, Coleman, Williams, Robinson, Moses
Sheffield Sharks: Babalola, Tuck, Cook, Holmes, Simmons
John Lavery’s men came out fresh as daisies, something which at times this year has been a laborious task, and thanks to the dogged and determined work at both ends of the court by Reggie Middleton, capped off with a three-point play early in the quarter.
However, as play progressed, Phoenix began to miss crucial long range efforts, allowing Atiba Lyons’ side, in particular BJ Holmes, to eat away at the deficit. Nick Lewis increased the lead to three for Sharks, before a late basket from Victor Moses meant the advantage to the visitors was a slender one at 17-18.
Olu Babalola was to be the difference for the most part in the second quarter, combined with Jeremie Simmons’ free throw to help the South Yorkshire side push their lead out to five points midway through the period.
Captain of the moment, Mike Tuck, who was more a spring lamb than a Canadian/Yorkshire piece of mutton with an almost double-double performance, was on call to fire home points from the free throw line, and whilst Reggie Middleton responded with points of his own, Zach Gachette ended the half off and gave Sheffield a lead of seven points, 29-36.
A quarter of two halves to some degree after the break, as Sheffield reached a game-high lead of 13 points, thanks to Gachette’s easy three-pointer knock down gave the visitors full control.
The turning point in Phoenix’s game came after a wonderful alley-oop from Gerald Robinson’s pass to Victor Moses, which began an incredible 15 point run that got the home crowd up on their feet, as Middleton nailed the final shot of the quarter and edged the lead 55-53.
Points were traded, Sharks’ slight advantage were cancelled out by a Kai Williams’ trey until the visitors began to turn the screw. Phoenix wasted a possession with a shot clock violation, allowing Sheffield to maintain a comfortable lead against a Phoenix side struggling against foul trouble, and finished out the game 66-72 to the good.
Devan Bailey, who made his Phoenix debut, despite having been crucial in the play that allowed Phoenix to drag themselves back in the third quarter, fouled out of the game, but his statline may have not done him justice.
Mike Tuck stood out above the rest of the Sharks, with 19 points and 9 rebounds, as his team-mates shared the figures. Victor Moses, once again, hugely impressed for Phoenix, with an unofficial triple-double. He claimed 24 points and 17 rebounds, with 10 of those coming off the offensive boards.
Cheshire Phoenix: Moses – 24, Middleton 22, Coleman 10
Sheffield Sharks: Tuck – 19, Holmes – 17, Babalola – 9
More to follow including quotes from John Lavery and Atiba Lyons…