Sheffield Sharks had the perfect start to their BBL campaign with a thumping 83-70 victory over Durham Wildcats at the EIS last night.
Having returned the bulk of his squad from last season coach Atiba Lyons knew what he’d be getting, for the most part, from his players.
However, new signing Allen Payne, having only arrived in Sheffield on Monday night, remained a mystery.
After 40 minutes of basketball it is fair to say Payne was impressive.
Playing intelligently with his established teammates, Payne helped himself to 20 points as Sharks held off a spirited Durham side.
It took Sheffield a while to get into the groove but once Nick Lewis had given the Sharks a 6-5 lead they never trailed again.
Payne was introduced midway through the first quarter and immediately looked at home with four points as Sharks led 16-14 after 10 minutes.
A 9-0 burst to open the second period put Sharks well in control.
Guard Lewis and forward pair Mike Tuck and Olu Babalola were combining well but it was four more points from Payne that gave Sheffield a 35-23 advantage.
Durham responded but a three from Lewis on the half time buzzer ensured Sharks held a comfortable 39-29 lead at the interval.
The visitors cut the gap to 46-43 early in the third quarter but Babalola’s triple began a 17-7 burst up to the end of the period.
And eight consecutive points by Payne in the final quarter gave Sharks a 77-58 lead to ease his new team home.
Payne said: “It’s always good to get off on the right foot but we can’t enjoy this for too long because we’re back in action in 48 hours.
“The guys have taken me in like a brother and helped me fit straight into the squad.”
On Sunday Sheffield travel to Manchester Giants.