‘Absolutely!’ The solitary word that confirms that Sheffield Sharks’ Olu Babalola is happy to be in the semi-finals of the BBL Cup after the 91-84 win over Cheshire Phoenix at the EIS.
The possibility of a Halloween horror show reared its head with the ‘Nix announcing the signing of former Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks NBA star Julius Hodge days before the encounter.
But Sharks held their nerve in a tenacious display marshalled by the veteran Babalola.
Cheshire, who also announced the signing of 6ft 10ins centre Lester Prosper, clearly impressed 33 year old Babalola. “We fought hard against the best Cheshire team I have seen in my professional career,” some statement indeed given that GB-capped Babalola made his BBL debut back in 2006 for Newcastle.
“To come out and get this win is big for us. We haven’t started the season as well as we wanted to so it’s good for us.”
Babalola contributed a valuable 11 points along with two rebounds, two assists and three steals as well as providing vital experience to his younger team-mates when Cheshire fought back in the first and second quarters. ‘That wasn’t our game plan, like I said before this team is tough. Atiba said at half time we had to pull away. We made big stops when we needed them and dug it out.’
Both sides excelled in a frenetic third quarter that saw Cheshire’s Taylor King hit five three-point scores but Babalola had praise for one of his young charges. “A lot of them were hitting threes but Nick (Lewis) had a huge third quarter, which is what we look for him to do.”
There is no let-up for Sharks with important Championship games against Newcastle and surprise-package Bristol next weekend: “We look forward to it. It’s going to be a big weekend for us,” Babalola said.