Facing the toughest possible start to the season the new look Sheffield Sharks battled hard but couldn’t hold off reigning BBL champions Newcastle Eagles on Friday night at the EIS.
Eagles, winners of all four trophies on offer during the last campaign, were made to work hard by the Sharks who were without their talisman Mike Cook due to a bereavement in the American’s family.
But as he has done on so many occasions against Sheffield the difference was Eagles veteran Charles Smith.
The 39-year-old scored a game-high 25 points including a couple of vital three-point shots late in the encounter.
Sharks had given competitive debuts to guard duo Jerrold Brooks and Kyle Odister and also started with big man Reggis Onwukamuche alongside captain Mike Tuck in the front court.
After a 24-24 first quarter the Sharks moved 36-31 ahead late in the second quarter on the back on two Patrick Horstmann free throws.
And the lead was stretched to 40-33 following a Brooks three.
However, the Eagles put together a 7-0 run to end the half with Smith’s three levelling the scores.
Newcastle twice held leads of six points in the third quarter as the visitors looked to pull away but a three by Odister capped a 7-0 burst to edge Sheffield 53-52 ahead.
Sharks couldn’t maintain their lead and Smith again had the last score of a quarter to give Eagles a 63-60 advantage.
Sheffield could never get their noses in front again but did tie the game at 73-73 on three free throws by Odister.
Smith’s triple broke the deadlock and, after Horstmann had trimmed Newcastle’s lead to 78-76, Smith hit another from distance to finally break Sharks’ resistance.
* Scorers: Tuck 21, Odister 18, Brooks 17, Barber 9, Horstmann 5, Sing 4, Onwukamuche 2, G Brownell 1.