Sheffield Sharks were dealt a harsh lesson by champions Newcastle Eagles on Friday night at the EIS.
The visitors are the class of the British Basketball League and they swatted aside the Sharks with their tough, hard-nosed style of play that has brought the north-east club so much success.
True, the Eagles were aided by several hard-to-fathom decisions by the match officials but it didn’t affect the overall outcome and leaves Sheffield needing to get their league campaign back on track tonight at BBL newcomers Bristol Flyers.
Sharks trailed 25-21 at the end of the first quarter, 48-37 at half time and were down 70-54 heading into the final period.
A 12-0 run reduced the deficit to 72-66 but back-to-back three pointers by Eagles Charles Smith and Andre Jones spurred a 9-0 burst that made the match safe.
Sharks were frustrated by several decisions which led to a series of free throws and technical fouls just when the gap was closing.
However, at crucial times the Eagles were better and were able to score points or get a defensive stop.
Sharks coach Atiba Lyons said his team deserved to be beaten: “I thought we were tentative in the first half and played into their hands.
“We were better in the second and did a good job of climbing back into it and tried to keep the momentum but the refs called some terrible calls at key moments.
“I think we played bad enough to lose by 20.
“We missed 12 free throws and we didn’t play good enough to win.”
Sharks struggled to cope with Eagles experience all evening but forward Colin Sing says his team can still compete with them when the two teams meet in the BBL Cup semi-finals. “There were a few bad calls in that game but we have to bounce back,” he said.
“They’re not 20 points better than us. We are good team who have been together a long time,
“I’m not blaming it on the calls but it does affect the game.
“We have to play our game at Bristol and get the win.
“It’ll be a tough game because they’ve been together a long time in the EBL.”
Nick Lewis led the Sharks scoring with 16 points while Mike Tuck had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
* Scorers: Lewis 16, Payne 13, Tuck 12, Sing 10, Holmes 9, Horstmann 6, Babalola 5, Gachette 4.