It wasn’t the result hoped for with the return of Mike Cook, but Friday night’s defeat for Sheffield Sharks against Cheshire Phoenix showed plenty of signs of encouragement.
The visitors blew open a tight game in the fourth quarter with a 20-2 run that took the score from 67-65 to 87-67 with just under four minutes to play.
There was no way back for the Sharks from there as they lost for the second consecutive week on their home floor.
But while last week’s defeat against Leeds Force was a low point the Phoenix loss can be seen as the start of something.
Cook, who found his rhythm in the second half after going scoreless in the first to score 10 points, combined well with BJ Holmes (13 points) - playing his first game in almost a month due to injury - and captain Mike Tuck (15 points) looked like he was coming back into form.
Cook had a successful first spell with the Sharks in 2009/10 and much is expected of him.
However, after only arriving in Sheffield on Wednesday he said he’s still trying to get to know his new teamamates.
He said: “Tonight I was trying my own niche on the team. I’ve only had one practice with the guys.
“I thought I got the shots I wanted, but I’m trying to get used to the guys and do the little things.
“I’ll be a lot better next week. It was a quick turnaround (signing his contract and then travelling from America) and I’m just trying to fit in right now.”
The Sharks have now lost consecutive home games, and five of their last six, but it didn’t look that way early on as Olu Babalola scored five in a row to help them out to a 9-2 lead. Mike DiNunno made consecutive baskets as the Phoenix responded in kind to tie the game, but a Nick Lewis three-pointer prevented them from taking the lead.
But the Sharks could only hold off their visitors until the start of the second stanza, when Taylor King’s three-pointer put Cheshire up 21-19. King added another in what became a 12-4 start to the second, and a 28-21 Phoenix lead, with the hosts not scoring for three minutes.
Lewis hit another three for the Sharks, but David Aliu matched him in a 10-2 tear before half time, and Cheshire established a double-digit lead at 30-40.
But the Sharks were not done as, led by Cook’s six points, they posted an 11-2 run in the third quarter to regain the lead at 51-50.
But, fittingly, DiNunno and King settled the game as they hit three-pointers in succession, to give the visitors the lead for good.
And they dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 32 points and using the 20-2 surge to bury the Sharks, scoring five three-pointers in the run, as King scored nine late points and Simeon Naydenov added six.
Phoenix deserved their win but Sharks will feel like their play-off bid begins right now.