Leeds Force 53 Cheshire Phoenix 65: Force mistakes proved costly, admits Newby

Standing 7ft 7.26ins tall, Paul Sturgess may have the ability to make the big men of basketball look like toddlers looking up at their parents, but it was his more regular-sized Cheshire Phoenix team-mates who left Leeds Force feeling small last night.

OUT OF REACH:  Leeds Forces Ricky Fetske loses out to Cheshire Phoenixs Taylor King last night. Picture: Steve Riding.
OUT OF REACH: Leeds Forces Ricky Fetske loses out to Cheshire Phoenixs Taylor King last night. Picture: Steve Riding.

Cheshire’s acquisition of Sturgess, the earnest former Harlem Globetrotter who is listed as the second tallest living Englishman and tallest professional basketball player in the world, has been as much about promoting the sport to sponsors and fans as it has been about productivity on the court.

Basketball in Britain is a sport that needs all the help it can get in terms of promotion, and Sturgess, happily, plays his part.

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But he was more a cheerleader looking down from the top of a skyscraper as his team-mates wore down the Force, who for all the positive strides in their rookie year in the BBL have still to put back-to-back wins together in the league.

Cheshire were always going to be a tall order for Matt Newby’s Force, for their greater experience and resources.

But from the minute they responded to Ricky Festke’s early basket, there was no doubting they were in a game.

Will Hall was Force’s biggest threat, scoring 23 points including a two-pointer in the first quarter that he had to loop over the head and telescopic reach of Sturgess.

At one stage, Leeds reduced the arrears to just two points at 23-21 through a three-pointer from James McCann and two-pointer by Sam Attah when the chance had seemed lost.

But a 12-2 run saw Cheshire race into a 35-26 half-time lead, and although Force kept the deficit below double figures for much of the night through the best efforts of Hall and McCann, who contributed 11 points, and an arcing three-pointer from Branimir Mikulic, Phoenix were always in charge of the clock.

Force head coach Newby said: “I thought we were good defensively and on reflection the mistakes we made on offence which they capitalised on, was probably the difference.”

Elsewhere, Sheffield Sharks were beaten 78-75 at Worcester Wolves.

Mike Cook top-scored for the Sharks with 15 points.