Sharks showed their class at the EIS on Friday night to cruise past Cheshire Phoenix.
It was a potentially tricky first match in their weekend double header - Sharks travel to Glasgow Rocks on Saturday night - but Sheffield barely needed to break sweat in the final quarter to hold off their visitors.
After a tight first half, which Sharks shaded 44-42, a big third quarter proved to be the difference.
Young guard Zach Gachette scored 10 of his 14 points during the period as Sheffield went on runs of 14-2 and 8-2 to gain control.
And then, leading by as many as 18 points in the final quarter the Sharks did the equivalent of shielding the ball by the corner flag to run down the 24 second shot clock before quick passing led to easy scores.
While it wasn’t the most exciting tactic it showed the professionalism of the Sharks squad as they saved energy for Saturday’s clash north of the border.
Gachette was excellent but so too was point guard BJ Holmes who once again set the game around his tempo. The American led Sharks scoring with 24 points.
And skipper Mike Tuck kept Phoenix forward Victor Moses quiet to score 20 points and pull down 10 rebounds.
Tuck threw down a couple of big dunks to bring the EIS to its feet as did fellow forward Patrick Horstmann.
With fellow title contenders Newcastle, Worcester and Leicester all winning it was important Sharks followed suit.
The main threat for Cheshire was guard Dominique Coleman who set the tone for his team in the first half as the visitors punished Sharks from beyond the arc.
Phoenix had five three-point shots in their first quarter lead of 25-21. Sharks were still playing well though, with Tuck winning the battle against Moses under the basket.
A 9-0 run to start the second quarter gave Sharks a 30-29 advantage before Phoenix responded with an 8-0 run of their own to move 40-37 in front. Holmes’ three stopped the rot for Sheffield and the game seemed destined to be level at the interval but an Olu Babalola two just before the buzzer edged Sharks in front 44-42.
Sheffield used Babalola’s basket for momentum as they dominated from that moment onwards.
* Sharks scorers: Holmes 24, Tuck 20, Gachette 14, Babalola 11, Jemison 8, Horstmann 7, Lewis 3