The experienced Head Coach of the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, Atiba Lyons, has won the Kevin Cadle Molten BBL Coach of the Month award for March after leading his team to an unbeaten run in the BBL Championship.
The month had started on a disappointing note as Sharks were knocked out of the BBL Trophy at the semi-final stage in a narrow road defeat at Cheshire Phoenix, but it was all up from there as they bounced back with five straight wins in league play to currently sit on a 14-17 record.
Perhaps most significantly, they scored back-to-back victories against the recently crowned champions, London Lions, and the third-placed Leicester Riders – initially becoming the first team to beat Lions twice this season, until Bristol Flyers matched that feat last weekend.
Against Lions at the Copper Box Arena, Sharks trailed by double-figures with seven minutes to play until Coach Lyons called timeout and made a pair of substitutions, from which point they hit back immediately and finished the game on an 18-5 surge to snatch it on five late points from Rodney Glasgow Jr., after a late defensive clamp down.
That defensive display is characteristic of the team, as they held their other four league opponents to just 68 points per game, the BBL’s leading defence in March and number two overall on the season. After London, that included holding the usually free-scoring Riders to just 64 points, their lowest mark of the season, while also finishing that game on a 14-6 run to break a tie as late stands proved key to Sheffield’s success.
The month also saw two wins over Surrey Scorchers and a defeat of BBL Trophy winners Caledonia Gladiators. Lyons’ coaching mettle was tested – with his team showing great character – by the fact that four of their six games in March were within two possessions in what is a highly competitive BBL Championship race, including coming from behind to win on the road at Surrey with the last four points of the game out of a Lyons timeout inside the final minute.
Sheffield, currently sitting seventh in the table, finished second in the BBL Championship last season and after some initial struggles in this campaign Lyons took the bold decision to reshape his roster early this year with the acquisitions of Devearl Ramsey in January and Jalon Pipkins in February, yielding the run of recent results.
That unbeaten run was halted in their first game of April, again falling to the Phoenix, but they continue to look forward to a busy final month of the regular season campaign, with four games against teams above them providing an opportunity to climb the ladder.