Leeds Force lost out in a closely-fought BBL Yorkshire derby at English Institute of Sport today, suffering an 83-52 defeat against Sheffield Sharks.
Sheffield wasted no time in showcasing their offensive prowess, leaping into a quick five-point lead as the hesitant Leeds struggled to fend off Sharks’ endless attacking threats across the floor.
Needing a spark, Leeds’ newest signing Morakinyo Williams energised the faltering Force with three consecutive baskets – handing the road side a lifeline to keep a feisty Yorkshire derby tight in the opening exchanges.
Former Force talisman Rob Marsden spearheaded Sheffield’s first-quarter charge, converting from close-range as the Sharks looked to shake free from Leeds’ impressive band of new recruits.
Ten straight points from the fiery Zach Gachette charged Sheffield into a double-digit advantage, only for Leeds to valiantly battle back into contention as Kosovan international forward Gazmend Sinani rose to the rim and narrowed the deficit with Force looking to register a first road win of the season.
A disastrous trio of turnovers to open the second segment allowed Sharks to prise open a decisive advantage – Marsden haunting his ex-employers with a scintillating spinning finish to cap a Sheffield purple patch as the home side strode clear of the harrying Force.
Leeds’ dynamic frontman duo of Sinani and Williams flexed their muscle and stepped on the gas pedal to ignite hopes of a Force comeback – cutting Sharks’ defence to ribbons in back-to-back plays to stifle a strong Sheffield crowd.
Having completed a five-year, 100 appearance stint in South Yorkshire, Leeds’ summer signing George Brownell marked his Sheffield return with a stunning triple to take first blood in the family fight with Sharks guard and brother Eddy Brownell.
Despite American star Dirk Williams’ crowd-pleasing acrobatic finish, Leeds fired the final salvo of the quarter as Scotsman Chris De Sousa knocked down a high-pressure shot from deep as the half-time buzzer blared.
A reverberating slam dunk from Sharks’ Williams opened a pulsating third period as Leeds continued to out-perform their lowly league status – keeping in touching distance despite losing Lithuanian guard Vytautas Kamarunas to an ankle injury. The tension began to dissipate as the top-five chasing Sharks began to ease away – not without a fierce duel between the two Williams, as Force’s Morakinyo and Sheffield’s Dirk continued to exchange baskets in a brilliant individual battle.
Sheffield turned on the style however as the clock ticked towards the final 10 minutes – ramping up the defensive pressure and swarming Leeds’ tired attackers with a suffocating defensive stand.
The fatigued Force faded away in a relatively one-sided final period, as Sheffield marched to another victory to condemn a brave Leeds side to a 26th defeat of a frustrating campaign.