The DBL Sharks Sheffield proved that there would be no BBL Trophy hangover with a solid 88-81 win over BBL Cup holders, Cheshire Phoenix. Led by a season-high 31 points from Chris Alexander, the Sharks entertained the BBC Sport audience with a fast-paced display. The eventual result was still in doubt late in the game but it was the home side who managed their affairs better down the stretch.
Sharks: Alexander, McKnight, Williams, Tuck, Wroblicky
Phoenix: Sandoval, May-Thompson, Jackman, Gettys, Bailey
The first quarter was played at break-neck pace and was hugely entertaining. After Jackman and Bailey had shot the ‘Nix into a 0-5 lead, Chris Alexander (and one play) and a trademark Dirk Williams dunk soon levelled matters. Tuck and May-Thompson traded threes with little to choose between the two sides and it took triples from Alexander and Williams to see the Sharks break out at 18-12. Williams drained another out of the corner at 23-15 and on the defensive end, consecutive blocks by Gachette and Wroblicky on Gettys and Riley saw Cheshire into a timeout at 25-17. A three from Alexander on the angle saw the Sharks confident at 30-22 but late scores from former Shark Malcolm Riley saw the quarter close at 30-26.
A more circumspect second quarter followed but was nonetheless entertaining. Sandoval exquisitely weaved his way through to the hoop in the opening seconds but back to back treys from Alexander tempered the Nix revival at 38-30. Seven Raheem May-Thompson points saw Cheshire come again at 42-37 but once more their momentum was halted by a McKnight three. Alexander gave the Sharks a ten point lead from the line but a Devan Bailey buzzer-beater saw the half close at 49-41.
Any thoughts of either side capitulating were totally banished in the third stanza. A 9-2 run for the Nix saw them pull to within one point on Sandoval’s free throw. It looked like Gachette’s triple would spark another Sharks run but Bailey and Jackman gave Cheshire a first lead since the opening of the game. The lead lasted just over a minute as Alexander’s and one and Williams’ third triple restored the Sharks to a 62-57 advantage. Rolls-Tyson euro-stepped his way to the hoop at 68-61 but Touray saw that everything was still to play for in the fourth at 68-63.
Chris Alexander continued his prolific evening with a trey at 73-67 early in the final period. As in the thirty minutes just passed, Cheshire refused to go away. Seven consecutive May-Thompson points saw them within three at 77-74 but another Sharks run saw them go out to 83-74. Orlan Jackman continued to try and drag Phoenix back but the clock and a building foul count proved to be their enemy. Three trips to the charity stripe saw the Sharks do what was necessary to secure a solid 88-81 success.
There was a fair spread of minutes for the Sharks, including court time for Eddy Brownell and Sol Rolls-Tyson, who acquitted themselves admirably. Continuing his resurgent form was Mike Tuck. He shot 83% from the field on his way to 11 points and 6 rebounds. Dirk Williams was at his high-flying best for the global audience, putting up 17 points and 4 rebounds including one monster early dunk, three triples and one thrilling coast-to-coast drive. Little doubt over the MVP however. He may be one of the senior members of the team but there is nothing senior about the speed and agility of Chris Alexander. The Oklahoma native out of Southern University was scintillating, attacking the hoop with mesmerising guile and connecting on 5 of 10 three point attempts. His 31 point, 2 rebound, 3 steal, 3 assist statline was key to an entertaining win as the Sharks claimed a 3-0 league sweep over Cheshire for the season.
Sharks Coach Atiba Lyons spoke highly of his current bunch of charges and gave an indication of the style of play to come for the remainder of regular season.
DBL Sharks Sheffield at Glasgow Rocks, Sunday 18th March, Emirates Arena, 5.00pm Tip Off.
- Earlier in the evening. the Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters overcame Oaklands Wolves by 79-60 in the WBBL. A tight first half saw the Hatters go in up by 40-37, having lost Helen Naylor to an early injury. Oaklands resolve crumbled in the second half as Jen Ashton (21 points, 10 assists), Gianna Woods (20 points, 16 rebounds) and Steph Gandy (13 points, 10 rebounds) steered the Sheffield side to a thirteenth win of the campaign.