In their second home game back at Ponds Forge, the Sharks put on a solid display, beating the Cheshire Phoenix 75-60 in their third BBL Cup game this season.
The Sharks have had a solid start to the campaign now sitting 2-1 in the North group of the competition, tied for second with the Glasgow Rocks and Newcastle Eagles.
Sheffield won the tip-off and front court man Bennett Koch opened the scoring with 2 made free throws.
Koch was influential in the first quarter, working hard inside and showing immense hustle, fighting for the ball and then displaying huge airtime and strong body control to finish inside, which got the Sheffield bench on their feet cheering.
Later, Captain Mike Tuck hit a smooth fadeaway to beat the shot clock, but it was a strong finish inside from the nifty Phoenix No. 1 that beat the first quarter buzzer and making the score 17-9 to Sheffield.
Rob Marsden attracted a lot of attention down low during the game and a kick out to Nick Lewis in the second quarter yielded another three points for the Sharks and another timeout during the half from Cheshire.
Cheshire cut the lead to three and then tied the game with back-to-back threes late in the half. Sheffield were forced to call another timeout after the Phoenix took their first lead of the game capping off a strong 18-8 run so far in the quarter.
A pin-point outlet pass, off the rebound from Tuck to Mackey McKnight created an easy layup, which the Sharks fans loved.
The Sharks then countered Cheshire with a run of their own to end the half up 32-27.
In the third quarter, a three-pointer from Cheshire’s No. 12 cut the lead to four at the time, but McKnight’s strong finish took it to a six point lead.
A fantastically executed Mcknight-Marsden Pick and Roll led to a neat finish from Marsden who scored with the floater.
Lewis then stole the ball minutes later and with incredible body control finished against the retreating Phoenix defender to push the lead to eight.
Tuck then showed off his range knocking down three straight three-point shots, much to the delight of SharkNation.
This burst of scoring aided Sheffield to their 53-47 lead at the end of the third.
The Sharks did struggle offensively and Cheshire cut it to one. However, great defence from Tuck and Mcknight led to the lead being extended by five additional points.
Manson-Young’s three really raised the volume in Ponds Forge and a McKnight finish inside gave the Sharks a good head of momentum later on.
Cheshire kept coming back though and the lead was only five once again after some good scores from the visiting team.
However, shortly after, Lewis hit a massive triple and the Sharks suddenly had a ten point cushion to hold onto with the clock ticking down.
The score finished 75-60 with the hometown Sharks the victors. McKnight took home MVP honours for his 25 point performance, accompanied by 6 assists and 2 steals.
Assistant Coach Nick Montgomery claimed the key to closing the game out in the fourth quarter was the defense.
The Sharks were up double digits early on, but Montgomery felt a loss of focus on the defensive end was what allowed Cheshire to build momentum and close the gap and keep the Sharks within striking distance until the fourth quarter. “It was just about fixing up defensively, which gave us the momentum”.
In reference to his three-point barrage to start the second half, Captain Mike Tuck confirmed that he’d “always been able to shoot” and enjoyed Pick and Pop plays, but with more outside shooters on the team the last few seasons he had found himself playing under the basket more.
The fan reaction to Tuck’s shooting was incredible. He said “the fans are like a sixth man” and the team “always play better with them”. “Mad respect to them for coming out in this rain, on a Sunday too”.
Sheffield’s next home game is against the Glasgow Rocks on the 11th of November, with the team eyeing to continue their good form in that game too.
Sheffield Sharks: McKnight, Lewis, Backovic, Marsden, Koch
Cheshire Phoenix: Sayers, Ochereobia, Latinovic, Hayes, Jackson-Cartwright