Devearl Ramsey and Parker Stewart star as Sheffield Sharks survive Surrey Scorchers comeback
In front of the smallest crowd they have played to at their new £14m home – symptomatic of the Thursday night slot the British Basketball League is using to showcase the league to new TV media markets in America – Sharks overcame their biggest deficit of the season to outlast Surrey Scorchers 81-78.
Trailing by nine points at the start of the second and tied at 43 and then 61 at the end of the next two quarters, Sharks needed someone to break the deadlock.
Where earlier it had been Jalon Pipkins, Kipper Nichols and Devearl Ramsey who produced the eye-catching turns, it was left to a player coming off the bench to steer the Sharks away from the Scorchers; Parker Stewart starting the final stanza with six points, an assist and a steal as Sheffield finally pulled away.
A three-pointer from Ramsey took the deficit beyond double digits for the first time, only for although Surrey to got back to within one with a 10-point run that included a couple of dagger three-pointers which set up a nervy finale.
Sheffield rallied again to close out the win, however, Ramey and Nichols holding their nerve at the free throw line to secure a seventh victory in 12 BBL Championship games and fourth in five at the Canon Medical Arena.
There have been cleaner offensive performances in wins here against Newcastle Eagles, Caledonia Gladiators and Manchester Giants, but this was more of a gritty effort.
Head coach Atiba Lyons said: “In the first half we didn’t come out with the right intensity, we didn’t play well defensively. They shot the ball really well but our defence allowed them to do that.
"Second half was a better job, a lot more intense.”
After a fast start led by Bennett Koch, Sharks were guilty of not putting their foot to the floor and with repeated turnovers, allowed Surrey to grow in confidence.
Led by Quin Cooper who sunk a hat-trick of three-pointers, Scorchers built a 29-21 lead after the first quarter, 29 being the highest number of points Sharks had conceded in the first quarter this season.
But inspired by Ramsey they drew level bay half-time at 43-43, and retook the lead for the first time since the first quarter, two minutes into the third on a fast-break lay-up by Nichols.
Nichols then produced a wonderful assist down low to RJ Eytle-Rock for a lay-up as Sharks looked to have finally reasserted their authority.
Sharks had clearly been instructed to attack the boards more in that second half, having totalled zero offensive rebounds in the first half and 10 in the second 20.
But Surrey would not go away, knotting the scores at 61-61 going into the fourth quarter before the unheralded Stewart produced five minutes of magic that, despite a late wobble, helped Sheffield over the line.