Basketball: Sheffield Sharks 73 Cheshire Phoenix 61

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There have been a few false starts in recent seasons for the Sharks - but not last night as they eased past Cheshire Phoenix at the EIS.

Coach Atiba Lyons couldn’t have been happier with his team’s victory, which saw his three new signings look impressive and his returning core players all look like they’d spent the summer in the gym and not on the beach.

Captain Mike Tuck top-scored with 20 points and with last season’s point guard BJ Holmes due to hold talks in the early hours of this morning with Lyons to discuss his return to Sheffield the club couldn’t have asked for a better start to their BBL campaign.

True, Cheshire still have work to do to build a deeper bench for their starting five but once Sharks had turned a 15-12 first quarter advantage into a 31-16 lead mid-way through the second period the visitors were always struggling to compete.

Olu Babalola, who had surgery on both ankles during the off-season and now looks back to his best, had 11 points during that run and was one of many who look re-invigorated by the quality of players around him.

Sharks took a 42-30 lead into half time and maintained a healthy margin (58-49) heading into the final quarter thanks to 10 points from guard Jeremie Simmons during the third quarter.

Lyons describes Simmons as a “cool customer” and Phoenix were closed out in the last 10 minutes in an equally assured way by a professional Sharks performance.

Lyons said: “That was a tremendous effort and display of hard work. They showed their heart out there and it’s a good start. Of course we can do things better. Offensively we dried up a bit but we stuck with the defence and that helped keep our lead.”

Sharks travel to Manchester Giants tomorrow for their first away match.

* Scorers: Tuck 20, Babalola 13, Simmons 10, Gachette 9, Horstmann 9, Sing 6, Cook 3.