Established Sheffield Sharks took a chunk out of rookies Leeds Force in the first ever battle of Yorkshire last night.
The upstarts from Leeds struggled to contain the swarming yellow shirts who sunk their teeth in early and never loosened their grip.
It was a real schooling for fledgling Force, who have won a couple of games and given a few long-standing teams a fright in their first few months in the professional ranks.
But they froze against a team they would dearly have loved to cause a shock against and remain rooted to the foot of the 13-team table with just two wins.
Force were successful on fewer than 25 per cent of their two-point shots last night, considerably lower than the ratio they have been hitting in making a number of other established teams sweat in recent weeks.
James McCann provided the only sustained scoring threat; the San Diego State graduate scoring 21 points and the only two baskets of the second quarter as the game went away from Leeds.
“In terms of what we’ve produced this year so far we were nowhere near as good,” said Force’s director of professional basketball Matt Newby.
“We weren’t good enough in terms of execution and decision-making and they pressed us really well.
“Even when we put a run together they found a way to put the brakes on it and that’s the sign of a good team.
“We hope that this will become a rivalry that is good for the league and the sport in this area, but we have got to make a game out of it.”
An eight-point run by the Sharks midway through the opening quarter gave them the initiative as Force laboured under the basket.
Sharks opened up a 12-5 lead that only a long-range three-pointer from McCann could snap.
Leeds had only themselves to blame for the deficit with their shooting under pressure particularly errant.
Darrell Bethune, Branimir Mikulic and Mario Diez were all culpable.
The mobile McCann tried to get things moving for the hosts but even he fell victim to the scoring constipation that gripped the Force.
Combined with a superb defensive effort from the Sharks, the BBL rookies were being thwarted at every turn, the second quarter a particular struggle as it took until the final two minutes before they scored.
Giordano Estrada – signed by Force in midweek after graduating California’s Chico State in the summer – netted a trio of three-pointers as Force briefly rallied in the second half.
But the unerring accuracy of Mike Tuck and Nick Lewis kept the Sharks in total command as they wrapped up the win.