Plymouth City Patriots 68 – 63 B. Braun Sheffield Sharks (14-17, 31-26, 55-48)
(Patriots – Williams 20, Hassan 13, Dusha 12; Sharks – Ogunyemi 14, Delpeche 13, Banks Jr 11)
Antonio Williams led the Patriots with 20 points on 7/15 from the field, backed up by Rashad Hassan’s near double-double of 13 points and eight rebounds.
Javion Ogunyemi led the Sharks with 14 points.
The game started with both defences firmly on top in a low-scoring affair that saw the score at just 4-4 after the first five minutes of action. A low-scoring game tends to favour Sheffield, who had kept their opponents to an average of 78 points so far this season – keeping Plymouth to just 69 when they faced each other last month.
Elvisi Dusha did not want to let this turn into a low-scoring game, so with five quick points, he put his team up 9-6.
Markedric Bell then blocked Kipper Nichols on the next possession before the Patriots ran down the other end and scored following Rashad Hassan’s beautiful post-play to go up 11-6.
However, the Sharks weren’t just going to roll over, and seven consecutive points by Ogunyemi saw the visitors go up 11-14 before a three-pointer from Nathaniel Montgomery extended their lead to six points, which was their highest of the match so far (11-17).
Similar to how the first quarter ended with a big scoring run by Sheffield, the second period started with a similar run, this time by Plymouth. It culminated with a classic Dusha three-pointer when his defender cheated and went under the screen, with the Patriots’ captain punishing the Sharks and putting his team up by four points (21-17) with under three minutes played in the second.
The visitors managed to tie the game up at 21 apiece after Rodney Glasgow Jr made a mid-range jump shot, but the scoring quietened again, with the two teams failing to score for a few minutes and the score staying at 21-21 after 16 minutes of action.
Despite the low-scoring affair, the match was not short of highlights, with Marcus Delpeche dunking the alley-oop pass from Channel Banks Jr – a move that silenced the loud Plymouth fans.
Troy Simons gave the home crowd something to celebrate though, when just a minute later he blocked Banks Jr before Dusha ran the floor and pulled up from behind the arc, draining his third long-range three of the game, to put his team up 28-23.
The Albanian then turned provider as he dished out to Antonio Williams, who finished off the first half with another triple, with the home side going to the changing rooms up 31-26.
The second half started with a block from Bell on Nichols before yet another scoring run, this time an 8-0 burst by the Patriots, saw them go up 39-29 – the first time the game had seen a double-digit lead.
The home side came out for the third quarter with a fire in their belly, playing tough defence, which helped them score easy baskets on the break.
This was the case with Williams, who stole the ball from Banks Jr before assisting Bell, who laid it in and put Plymouth up by 13 points – their largest lead of the game.
In a match characterised by significant scoring runs, it was now Sheffield’s turn to fight back and, with a 9-0 run, cut the difference down to a one-possession game at 50-48 after Banks Jr fake jab stepped and drained a triple.
Every time their opponents got within touching distance, the Patriots would find a way to pull apart again, ending the third period up 55-48 after Hawthorne Jr scored from behind the arc.
Although the third quarter was the highest-scoring, the fourth period was dominated by the two sides’ defence, which was another low-scoring 10 minutes, that saw the two teams neck and neck.
With the score at 59-53 after Williams made a lay-up, and just under seven minutes left to play, the two sides remained scoreless for nearly three minutes before Hassan finally broke the deadlock with just under four minutes left until the final buzzer.
Two consecutive triples by the Sharks – one from Banks Jr and one from Nichols (who reached 1,000 BBL career points) – saw the visitors claw back the difference to just one possession and even managed to get as close as 62-61 after Banks Jr made a lay-up.
A three-pointer by Bell gave some much-needed breathing space to the Patriots and put them up by four with 1:45 left on the clock, just as it seemed the momentum had swung in favour of their opponents.
Sheffield could not come back from that, and Plymouth secured a hard-fought win that sees them move to a 6-6 record, while the Sharks drop to 7-7.
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