Throughout my childhood, whenever basketball was mentioned by PE teachers or peers, the words “non-contact” were never far behind.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions and one I continue to hear coaching in schools across the city.
Friday night’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Sharks was a perfect example to squash the myth about the “non-contact” sport.
This battle of Yorkshire was about blood, sweat and a broken nose. The new arena in Huddersfield provided the perfect battleground and the students from the University of Huddersfield helped pack out the arena for one of our biggest crowds of the season.
Those fans did all they could to spur us on to victory, providing all the necessary chants, ooo’s and ahhh’s.
The game itself was every bit as exciting as the new arena. In what can only be described as a battle, Leeds Force’s star forward Will Hall left the game early after being bumped out of bounds into the backboard support, countless players were left on the floor and even yours truly left the court with a broken nose.
None of these incidents were called as a foul, so I challenge anyone who says that there is no contact in basketball.
In a back and forth first quarter neither team were giving an inch and with five lead changes this Yorkshire derby had all the makings of an instant classic.
With a balanced scoring effort, I entered the game with 3:19 left to play in the quarter. I managed just two minutes before my head got sandwiched between two Sheffield players fighting for a rebound, which resulted in that broken nose.
Following that incident I spent the rest of the half dazed and with a bleeding nose, but from what I do remember the Sharks just edged the half by three points.
After some time to regroup in the locker room, Sam Attah came out to nail a three-pointer and tie the game, but lapses in our defence were exploited to the full by Sharks veteran Mike Tuck who sparked a 10-0 run for the visitors. However, this would be enough to spur Force on, with James McCann taking on the scoring load and scoring four straight on our very own 7-0 run to keep the game close. The penultimate quarter ended with us trailing by eight.
Realising that this Sheffield team were beatable, Branimir Mikulic reeled off back-to-back three pointers to start the quarter.
Then in front of a roaring crowd, Force captain Armand Anebo stepped up to the plate and tied the game at 56-56. Both teams exchanged blows on the next few possessions and with two and a half minutes left to play we were all tied at 65-65.
After taking a quick lead from some beautiful team play for an open look under the hoop, Sharks immediately responded with a three, keeping us just at arms-length.
Down just three points with 30 seconds to play we suffered a game-changing unsportsmanlike foul on Mario Diez and a technical foul on coach Matt Newby which effectively nullified any hopes we had of salvaging victory. Sheffield made their free-throws to close out the game and take a 79-73 victory.
Sheffield may have won the battle, but the war is not over. Watch this space in future season’s for some more classic Yorkshire derbies.
After a full weekend to recover, we head down to one of the best venues in the BBL, the Copper Box, this Friday to take on the London Lions. After the heart-breaking loss to the Lions (61-64) back in November, we are more than motivated to fight for victory. Then on Sunday it’s back up north to visit Manchester Giants, who we have beaten twice this season already – but we’re not counting our chickens.