Sheffield Sharks delivered an emphatic message to their young upstarts from up the M1 as they brought an overdue end to a five-game losing streak.
Chastened by defeats of two points or fewer in their last four games, the long-established Sharks schooled BBL rookies Leeds Force last night in the first ever Yorkshire derby in the top flight.
And they left their opponents in no doubt as to who the big fish of Yorkshire basketball are as Atiba Lyons’s Sharks claimed a comfortable victory. Nick Lewis led the way for Sharks with 19 points, with Allen Payne and Mike Tuck each contributing 15. Patrick Horstmann claimed 10 rebounds.
An eight-point run by the Sharks midway through the opening quarter gave them the initiative as Force laboured under the basket.
Behind a dunk and a three-pointer by British guard Zach Gachette, Sharks opened up a 12-5 lead that only a long-range three-pointer from dynamic Force guard James McCann could snap.
Leeds had only themselves to blame for the deficit with their shooting under pressure particularly errant. Darrell Bethune, Branimir Mikulic and Mario Diez were all culpable. Sheffield’s leading shooters were similarly off-range, and it took three-pointers from German forward Patrick Horstmann and American Allen Payne to extend their lead in the second quarter.
Combined with a superb defensive effort from the Sharks, the BBL rookies were being thwarted at every turn.
Five points by Olu Babalola contributed to a 14-0 in the first 8.13 minutes of the second quarter before McCann finally found the basket for the beleaguered hosts.
But the damage had been done as Sheffield established a 32-15 half-time lead. Giordano Estrada netted two three-pointers as Force briefly rallied in the third quarter.
But the unerring accuracy of Tuck from the free-throw line and long range kept Sharks in command and 48-29 ahead at the end of the third. Estrada was the bright spot for Force in the second half but Lewis was a constant scoring threat as Sharks kept their hosts at arms’ length.