Road Trip London and Leeds – Round 22 Previewed

Another gameless weekend leads into an important week of fixtures for the DBL Sharks Sheffield. First up is an unusual Wednesday night fixture down in the capital’s Copperbox Arena when London Lions play host to the men in blue and yellow. Then on Sunday, the Sharks make the short journey up the M1 to take on Leeds Force with the Yorkshire head to head at stake. The Sharks will be buoyed by the return of Colin Sing but will continue to rue their injury-hit season with Kellen Thornton back in the US and Zach Gachette sidelined with a broken finger.

Tough times of late for the London Lions but they still showed they had some ‘roar’ in their belly by taking leaders Leicester to overtime at the weekend. The Lions currently sit in sixth with a 11-7 record and have recently been sliding down the standings. However, they took leaders Leicester into overtime on Sunday before just being edged out by 80-84. There was a profitable return for former-Rider Rashad Hassan, who posted a 27 point, 12 rebound double-double but it was in vain as a Taylor King-led Riders claimed the win. The Lions are still a force to be reckoned with as their 107-101 win in Plymouth showed the previous week. Hassan continued his tremendous form with 26 points against the Raiders and had a willing ally in Alex Owumi (25) on the night. Joe Ikhinmwin (12), Kai Williams (14), Navid Niktash (11) and Zaire Taylor (16) all contributed double figure scoring in the Plymouth win and Taylor dished out an eye-watering 11 assists and 6 steals in his performance. The Sharks already hold the head to head series by 2-0 against one of their near rivals but it clearly a case of beware the wounded Lion(s) especially in their own arena and a win would be a most welcome one.

On Sunday, the Sharks head up to Leeds to settle the all-Yorkshire head to head, currently standing at one game each. Leeds were the victors on opening weekend at the Carnegie venue by 79-58 with the Sharks replying spectacularly in front of the BBC cameras by 83-44 in mid-December. The Sharks have never lost the Yorkshire head to head since Leeds joined the BBL and will be keen to keep the record going whilst retaining the bragging rights for another year. Leeds were shorn of Jermaine Sanders (18.63 ppg) for the second encounter and with him back in the side, led by the solid coaching of Matt Newby, they present a formidable presence in their own gym. The Force are currently second bottom of the table with a 4-14 record but have the capability to upset anyone in the league; just ask long-time leaders Newcastle, who dipped there by 94-88 at the end of January. Coach Lyons has already spoken of the peculiarity of this season, whereby any team can defeat another on any given night and the Sharks will be well aware of this fact as they venture into West Yorkshire at the weekend.

The loss of Thornton for the rest of the season and the temporary loss of the in-form Gachette is yet another blow in an injury-hit season for the Sharks. Hopefully, the return of Sing will make up in some way for Thornton’s departure and the fact that the core of the team is achieving well will enable the Sharks to keep flourishing. Team spirit is remarkably good and the heart and guts on display against an in-form Worcester side a fortnight ago was a sign that this roster is gaining momentum. Putting further notches in the win column would be a sign that all continues to be well in camp. There has been much needed mirth this week with Coach Lyons’ social media takeover but its back to the serious business of winning games this week as the race to the season climax continues apace.

Your DBL Sharks Sheffield return to BBL Championship action this Wednesday 15th February at the Copperbox Arena against home side London Lions, tipping off at 7.30pm. We follow that up with a trip to Leeds on Sunday 19th February for a 4pm start. If you can’t join us on the road, sign up to www.livebasketball.tv where you can watch every BBL game live and as it happens(subscription required). We return to the EIS on Friday 10th March when Glasgow Rocks are the visitors. If you fancy a bit of ‘March Madness’ check out our 20% off deal by calling 0114 2573180 for more information. The season is hotting up! You have to be there to see the drama unfold!

Image: Sharks Team Photographers