Leeds Force continued their slow start to the British Basketball League season, suffering a 98-71 defeat against Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Sharks.
A tension-filled opening saw point-guard Eric Childress register Force’s first points through a scintillating solo drive to the rim.
Despite an explosive long-range triple from Mackey McKnight after two minutes, Leeds aggressively fought back against their Yorkshire rivals, with debutant Tavarion Nix supplying an electrifying block of McKnight’s soaring dunk attempt.
Fervent defensive pressure from Force ignited a spectacular offensive burst for Leeds, with Andrew Hambleton and Ingus Bankevics converting back-to-back triples before Childress ripped the ball away from a hesitant Sharks guard and finished strongly to cap a dominating 11-0 run for the road team. In a bid to halt the free-flowing Force, Sheffield answered back in emphatic style with Andre Gachette dropped a hammering dunk over the Leeds defence to bring Force’s momentum to a shuddering end.
Antonio Deogratias’ acrobatic tip-in edged Leeds into a one-point lead heading into the second quarter, with former Force threat Rob Marsden held to only five points after 12 minutes.
Childress snapped Leeds’ desolate scoreless run to begin the second quarter with a silky finish, sparking hopes of an unlikely Force comeback. Wanliss and Childress triples whittled the Sharks’ points lead to single-digits as Leeds ended the half with the momentum thanks to debutant Michel-Ofik Nzege’s buzzer-beater.
All of Leeds’ hard work unravelled to start the third, with quick-fire baskets seeing Sheffield’s lead balloon to 18 – all compounded by Deogratias’ untimely ejection as tempers flared on court.
Despite a sensational spinning finish from Bankevics, a lack of defensive discipline cost Leeds as the buoyant Sharks dismantled Force and fired into a 30-point advantage.
Lightning late-quarter play and a 7-0 run offered Leeds a glimmer of hope with six minutes remaining, but the Sharks protected their advantage and eased to victory against a frustrated Force.