Surrey Scorchers 81-96 Cheshire Phoenix (19-29, 45-50, 62-78)
(Surrey – Busumbru 21, Lawrence 17, Bakkali 12; Cheshire – Anderson 22, Austin 17, Strawberry 17)
Bristol Flyers 79-78 Manchester Giants (19-20, 37-42, 59-57)
(Bristol – Delpeche 19, Watson-Gayel 19, Miller 18; Manchester – Lee 21, Williams 17, Green 15)
Sheffield Sharks 73-86 London Lions (14-18, 37-40, 51-64)
(Sheffield – Nichols 19, Glasgow Jr 11, Delpeche 10; London – Dekker 23, Koufos 18, Best 10)
A high scoring first half between Surrey Scorchers and Cheshire Phoenix saw Jamelle Anderson show a mid-season form that comes from playing high level competitive basketball all summer – winning gold at the Commonwealth Games and for GB Basketball. His first-half 16 points led the way for Cheshire, but Surrey’s Andrew Lawrence wasn’t intimidated as he finished the first two quarters with 12 after shooting 50 per cent from the field.
Despite the 10-point deficit after 10 minutes, the Scorchers were able to work the pick-and-roll towards the end of the second frame to get downhill for several buckets to close the half and narrow the gap.
However, they couldn’t keep it close. The beginning of the second half was similar to the start of the first. Cheshire Phoenix pulled away quickly with a three-point make from Larry Austin and a couple of free throws, and the game was beginning to get away from the Scorchers, who were down 19 points early in the fourth quarter.
They played with pride until the end and closed the gap to 12 with a few minutes to go, and it was a great first outing for Luka Buzumbru’s first taste of BBL action, but it was ultimately a comfortable win for the travelling team.
It would have been weird to see a BBL season start without Vince Macaulay on the sidelines somewhere, and while the Manchester Giants team looks a bit different from the London Lions outfit he started last season with, the northern side still showed some of Macauley’s personality, with star power in the form of Dirk Williams and veteran Rahmon Fletcher.
But they were the travellers on the BBL’s opening day, as the loud Bristol Flyers crowd did its part in encouraging the home team to a victory.
It was a neck-and-neck game from start to finish, and a handful of mistakes and heroics made the difference as the fourth quarter came to a close.
Mike Miller threw up the great alley-oop that was only being caught by Malcolm Delpeche to go up 77-73 with just over a minute left.
An immediate timeout for Macaulay saw the Giants draw up a play, only to turn it over with an offensive foul on a moving screen. Then, on the other end of the floor, Manchester’s Tahj Green fouled out with 43 seconds left to go as it looked like the wheels might have started to get a bit rickety.
A well-drawn-up play from Macaulay got William Lee an open look, but the miss saw Miller grab a huge rebound and was fouled. However, he missed both free throws but an offensive rebound from Brandon Mahan took some time off the clock. The Flyers turned it over and Dirk Williams sprinted up the court to bank in a contested three-point buzzer beater, but too much time had been taken off to make up the rest of the deficit, and the home team came away with a one-point win.
If there were any concerns that BBL teams were going to be intimidated by the NBA-level talent of the London Lions, the B Braun Sheffield Sharks certainly didn’t show any signs.
The home team went basket-for-basket with the visiting Londoners in the first half, and took the fight to the Lions, even taking the lead for long stretches of the first and second quarters. Despite this, they never finished a quarter with a lead, which clearly took its toll.
Sharks leading scorer Kipper Nichols said at half time:
“We had some jitters, guys sped up, getting used to the atmosphere. But in the second half we’ll settle in.”
Nichols’ might have been better off not settling those nerves, because the Lions came out of the locker room with eight straight points, including a rebound and put-back from former Sacramento Kings big Kosta Koufos to force a Sheffield timeout.
That didn’t help matters, as the deficit grew toward the end of the third and fourth quarters, thanks to swarming defence and a deep bench.
While the former Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker did most of his work in the first half to become the game’s leading scorer, it was Koufos with 18 points, eight rebounds and some patient playmaking from the post and great defence that helped increase the lead for the visitors.
Lions head coach Ryan Schmidt spoke about the duo after the game. He said: “They were fantastic. Their performances were really good but their leadership was outstanding.”
Dekker spoke about the changes the team made in the second half: “Whenever you can leave a road trip 1-0 it’s a good sign, but we have some work to do. [In the second half we focused on] our defensive principles, we were biding by them. We are a long athletic team, and we were giving them too many driving lanes. We let our skill and athleticism take over, and we got a nice little run there.”
This was just the start of the BBL action this season, so be sure to get your tickets by clicking here.