Sheffield Sharks 82-72 Caledonia Gladiators (25-12, 19-21, 22-20, 16-19)
Sharks – Nelson 19, Ramsey 17, Ratinho 11; Gladiators – Bailey 17, Alihodzic 15, Sloan 15
Manchester Giants 76-87 London Lions (31-18, 18-24, 12-24, 15-21)
Giants – Williams 22, Green 15, Fletcher 14; Lions – Dekker 20, Best 13, Sharma/Taylor 12
Newcastle Eagles 92-85 Leicester Riders (16-23, 19-29, 34-20, 23-13)
Eagles – Johnson 21, French 19, Kennedy/Hamlet 14; Riders – Jackson 18, Mackenzie 13, Bowman 12
In the first contest of a three-game Friday night, the B Braun Sheffield Sharks held court at Ponds Forge as Sa’eed Nelson led the home team with 19 points for a win over the visiting Caledonia Gladiators.
On Sky Sports, the visiting London Lions overcame a hot start by Manchester Giants at the National Performance Centre to win 87-86 after an impressive performance by Sam Dekker, who notched 20 points.
And what looked like an impressive road win for the Leicester Riders saw Newcastle come back from 20-points down at Vertu Motors Arena to win by seven thanks to great performances by Kyle Johnson and Hasahn French, with 21 and 19 points, respectively.
While the Caledonia Gladiators moved the ball well in the opening few minutes, missed shots frustrated the visitors into an early timeout as the B Braun Sheffield Sharks made good use of the home support to take an early 8-0 lead.
An out-of-bounds play drawn up by Caledonia coach Gareth Murray saw Princeton Onwas attack the basket. He missed the field goal but sunk two foul shots, which got the scoreboard going for the Scottish side.
This was followed by a successful drive by David Sloan, but the Gladiators still couldn’t slow down the home team.
The Sharks have introduced new players in recent weeks, and Devearl Ramsey is someone who has made his mark since January.
He attacked on layups and got to the line to score six points early, but it was a balanced effort by Sheffield’s starting five that opened up a 19-point gap after a Jordan Ratinho three.
Fahro Alihodzic came off the bench to stop the bleeding, scoring four quick points, and following his second basket with an extra point after being fouled.
Sheffield’s Bennet Koch made sure to remind his opponents that scoring won’t be as easy for the rest of the night with a big block on Kyle Jimenez’s drive.
The Sharks kept a big lead to close the first ten minutes, 25-13.
The teams played each other evenly throughout most of the second quarter and the gap remained.
A turnover for Caledonia gave another Sheffield newcomer, Jalon Pipkins, the chance to introduce himself for the fans that missed his first game.
He rose above the rim for a contested transition tomahawk that ignited the crowd and kept a double digit lead, which his team carried into the locker room for half time.
Sheffield looked to get Koch going, who danced with Alihodzic defending him, but got the step and the bucket to go.
Scotland’s travelling side started to look tired in the third quarter as they missed a couple of defensive rebounds that helped Sharks open up a 20-point lead.
Sheffield’s Rodney Glasgow Jr saw his defender’s aggressive close out fly by while he got inside to bury the two-point jumper.
But Gladiators’ energy man Jeremiah Bailey refused to let his team give up, and opened the fourth quarter as a man on a mission.
Patrick Tape found Bailey for a layup to begin the quarter.
Then within a handful of possessions, he got to the line, managed a running floater, and got fouled again to help close the gap to six with one minute to go.
Caledonia’s David Sloan was fouled while driving to the rim, and he made both to make it a four-point game.
But Sa’eed Nelson sunk two free throws for the Sharks and got another defensive stop down the other end.
This forced the Gladiators to foul Ramsey, who opened the gap back up to eight with 24 seconds left.
The home team finished with a win, which marked their second in a row and an important one to hopefully retain a playoff spot, but there is little time to relax as they travel south to face the Surrey Scorchers tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Gladiators dropped their third in a row, and will hope to bounce back against the Manchester Giants on Sunday.
With the London Lions in midst of a busy run of BBL and 7Days EuroCup action, the Manchester Giants looked to take advantage when the Championship leaders travelled north.
The Giants got out to a 8-0 lead thanks to feeding big man Legend Robertin, who got fouled on multiple occasions in the paint, and made three out of four free throws.
This meant London’s Josh Sharma had to sit within the first four minutes with two fouls.
The Lions were still big and athletic, and attacked the offensive glass after several misses.
Sam Dekker, Miye Oni and Tomislav Zubcic all registered boards, with the latter converting on one, and Oni getting to the line on another.
Rahmon Fletcher kept the home team scoring, with two big threes, and Tajh Green backed down Aaron Best to get to the free throw line where he made both to open a 14-point lead.
Outside of the typically high octane offence from Manchester, it was the defensive intensity that made the difference.
This was evident on an errand pass from Jonathan Komagum, which resulted in a foot race between Nick Lewis and Best for the loose ball – the Giants guard won and was rewarded with two points.
Manchester maintained a gap going into the second quarter, 31-18.
But the Lions didn’t build a gap at the top of the table without showing some heart, and they put it on display by cutting the lead to five half way through the second quarter.
Dirk Williams was the one who pushed the lead back up after calmly dealing with a close out by pump faking and stepping to the side for an open three under pressure.
Kofi Josephs got his first action after signing for the London Lions and returning to the BBL, and got loose on the fastbreak off the push-ahead pass from Williams.
This kept the gap at nine points, which was increased to 11 after a foul and two made free throws by Fletcher.
London’s Jordan Taylor got a jumpshot to sink and a steal on the other end, then found Vojtech Hruban for a layup to close the gap as they headed into the locker room 49-42.
Manchester did what they do best to open the second half: run.
While Dekker got a jumper for the Lions, Williams leaked out ahead of the pack and brought the Giants fans to their feet with a massive jam in open space.
But the Lions always roar. Sharma and Dekker worked together on several consecutive possessions that led London past Manchester for their first lead of the game.
They forced the home team into tough shots and limited second chance opportunities until Williams was fouled by Oni while shooting from three.
He hit all of them, plus an extra one from a technical foul to tie the game up.
London wrestled away the lead again going into the fourth quarter, as they had a five-point gap with 10 minutes to go.
Zubcic showed his low post skills to get the first points of the final frame, and a Giants turnover saw Best get out for a quick layup.
This is followed by a strong drive by Dekker that resulted in a two-handed dunk.
The tense affair required cool heads and London maintained a double-digit gap, but Green received the ball down low for Manchester and showed patience to put the ball in the basket.
Sharma worked his way towards the rim from the top of the key to get an easy hook shot over the Manchester defence.
Williams hit a huge crossover three for the Giants with two Lions defenders’ hands in his face, which closed the gap to seven, but Manchester started to look tired with just eight players available.
Anthony Roberson showed he still had some legs left down the stretch, and battled for an offensive rebound, then put the ball up quickly to close the gap to six with two minutes to go.
The Lions went to the Taylor-Sharma pick-and-roll, which produced an open dunk for the big man.
And London put the nail in the coffin the next time down by finding an open Zubcic in the corner for a three that opened the gap to 11.
Dekker spoke to Mike Tuck on the Sky Sports broadcast after the game and said: “We weren’t ready to play from the beginning. We need to be more focused coming out. The Giants came out with focus and high energy and we had to match that.
“We came out in the third quarter getting stops and started using our pace and athleticism getting up the court. When we do that we’re hard to stop.”
“We’ve got a busy month. We need to be professionals and get our minds and body prepared. We can’t make excuses. We have a tough schedule in EuroCup, this month we had 14 games but it’s more fun than a two-hour practice.”
Patrick Whelan made his presence known early when his Leicester Riders visited Vertu Motors Arena against the Newcastle Eagles.
He carved through the lane twice to get good layups, but the Eagles defence were ready for him on his third attempt.
Javion Hamlet stole the ball from Whelan, which kick-started a stretch of good defence for the home team.
It was Kimbal Mackenzie who got the Riders ticking again after a good pump fake and drive.
This created back and forth offence, thanks to Hashan French, who made a steal, got a layup, got to the line, hit a three and blocked a shot before getting a rest.
Aaron Menzies nearly took the rim down with a thunderous dunk while rolling down the lane, which caused a brief stoppage while the operations team secured it safely.
When the action restarted, Leicester came out of the break prepared to run.
Whelan grabbed a rebound after good defence, and found Evan Walshe leaking out ahead of the pack for a layup to create a seven-point gap at the end of the first quarter.
The Riders refused to take their foot off the gas, and increased the gap to 16 quickly.
But French interrupted a 10-2 run with a layup, which inspired Denzel Ubiaro to attack the basket – he was fouled but converted two free throws.
The first half closed with Leicester up 17 but Newcastle started chipping away to start the third, with one three and one two-point bucket each for Kyle Johnson and Justin Gordon.
Jermel Kennedy and Javion Hamlet joined Johnson in being aggressive on offence.
The Eagles followed this with tough defence to reduce Riders ball movement and force them into one-on-one play.
This meant Newcastle were just three points down heading into the final frame.
Multiple Leicester turnovers led to open buckets for David Cohn at the rim, then Kennedy hit an open three.
This created a six-point gap as the simple baskets became more difficult for the visitors, until Zach Jackson ducked inside for a good post bucket and followed it with another layup.
A timeout by Newcastle coach Marc Steutel encouraged ball movement on offence, which resulted in a big dunk for a rolling French, which was followed by Hamlet attacking the rim.
A bobbling ball found its way to Johnson alone in the mid-range, who hit an open jumpshot for the Eagles.
On defence, French forced another turnover and found Johnson for a thunderous dunk on the fastbreak, which opened an 11-point gap going into the last minute.
Mackenzie fouled out, but the Riders used this to inspire them into a hot streak.
Loving got to the line, and had one rare miss out of three. Then Jackson and Whelan hit big threes.
The Riders then forced the Eagles into an eight second violation, giving Leicester the chance to complete the comeback but they missed a long three.
An unsportsmanlike foul gave the ball to Newcastle, so while French hit one of two, with the possession back with the home side, Kennedy made two more for a seven point lead and the win.
This win keeps Newcastle’s playoff hopes alive, but the two sides have a rematch on Sunday in Leicester, where the home side will look for revenge.
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