Opening weekend of the 2022/23 BBL Season is in the books and the Manchester Giants end it on a positive note with a win to the Sheffield Sharks in the first home game of the season. Sheffield faced a familiar individual in the form of Giants spark plug Nick Lewis. Lewis previously played for Sheffield during the 2019-20 season as well as the 2020-21 campaign.
William Lee wasted little time today with a pair of blocks in the first 20 seconds to set the tone for tonight’s game. Anthony Roberson pops up with a thunderous block of his own that could be felt all the way in Sheffield. On the offensive end off the court, Dirk Williams, Rahmon Fletcher and Tajh Green made in rain indoors with three after three after three to put the giants on a colossal 13-0 scoring run in the opening three minutes. The fun did not stop as the quarter progressed with points inside the arch from Dirk Williams, Tajh Green and William Lee to stretch the Giants lead by as much as 16 points 8 minutes into the quarter. Momentum began to shift in the latter stages of the quarter with the Sharks reducing the Giants lead to 6 points with a minute left as they continually swarmed the paint to get the easy baskets. Former Sheffield Shark Nick Lewis reminded his former team of his talents with a buzzer beater from three with 4 seconds left. Giants lead the Sharks by 12 points as the second quarter gets underway.
Back to back makes from Nick Lewis and Anthony Roberson saw us underway with Tajh Green keeping the team ticking over to extend the lead to 41-29 halfway through the quarter. Sharks were still showing signs of life through Kipper Nichols draining from deep. A coach technical gave the Giants a chance to further the gap between them and their adversaries as Dirk Williams connected from the line. The very next possession, Williams, another former shark, strings it from deep at the left elbow to send the National Basketball Performance Centre into a frenzy. The Giants, playing to the tune of their own drum, extended the lead to the highest of the half at 21 points helped largely by the double digit scoring of both Dirk Williams and William Lee as the UAB Alumni combined for 34 between them to send the Giants far and away above the Sharks to end the second quarter. Giants led 58-42.
Both teams headed out for the third quarter in what started out as a dogfight. Both teams crashed the boards with sheer intensity. An offensive purple patch for the Giants was the story for the third quarter until Dirk Williams hit a catch and shoot fadeaway from mid range that hit nothing but net. All of a sudden, the Giants began to tick over once again. Carrying on from his stellar performance in the first 2 quarters, Dirk Williams not only sinking deep from three, also took to the skies against his former team to slam it down with enough power to shake the Earth’s Core.
The lead wasn’t getting any smaller as the fourth quarter got in full swing. Consistently in double digits in the early stages and only personified by a corner ball three from Nick Lewis. Lewis wasn’t done there as he hit again from deep just when the game was within the Shark’s grasp. Consistent fouls and trips to the line have been a hindrance for Manchester in this quarter. As a result, Sheffield have quietly crept their way back into this game. As the quarter began to wound down, foul trouble proved to be the true achilles heel of the Manchester Giants as they allowed 26 free throws throughout the entirety of the game. Controversy struck as with 23 seconds left Kipper Nichols releases from the top of the arc in an attempt to gain the lead, Nichols sunk the shot but with his foot on the line to make it a two point shot. 83-83 between these trans-Pennine rivals and into overtime we go.
5 minutes of overtime to separate these two teams got underway. Nothing separated them during the first three minutes until Anthony Roberson exploded into the air to deliver a two handed jam subsequently erupting the National Basketball Performance Centre. A low scoring overtime period sees drama strike in the final minute, Dirk Williams hits from three to take him to 29 for the evening. The sharks subsequently responded with a three of their own to make the game 91-89 in favour of the sharks with 18.5 seconds left. The lead wasn’t enough as William Lee hit from midrange to tie the game with 4 seconds left. Sharks inbounded the ball and were met with resistance and enough resistance to keep the scores at 91-91. One overtime couldn’t separate the two teams which meant a second period of overtime.
Jordan Ratinho let loose from the corner giving the advantage to the sharks, William Lee responded with a tip in to keep the Giants within touching distance, as did Tajh Green off the back of another Sheffield conversion. William Lee ties the game up once more this time from the line to make it 96 a piece. Tajh Green follows suit from the line to put the Giants ahead by two in the dying embers of the ball game. Rahmon Fletcher steps up, the Giants captain setting examples with a lovely display of razzle dazzle to finish at the rim. Tajh Green extends the lead by 1, converting from the line. With the game tied up 102-102 with less than a minute left on the clock, William Lee once again puts the giants up by 2. Another free throw from Dirk Williams was enough to seal tonight’s game.
Dirk Williams led Giants scorers tonight with 31 points on 61% from the field and 54% from three. Closely followed by the walking double double machine William Lee, he finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Lee also had a pair of blocks.
Head Coach Vince Macaulay said: “ I’m just delighted we got the win. I’m so delighted that we did it in front of this unbelievable Manchester crowd, I hope you all come back next sunday. I hope it’s not as nerve racking as this because that was a tough game against a very very tough Sheffield team. I’m proud of the way that the guys dug in really deep at the end”.
Next up on the Giants calendar is an away trip to the Newcastle Eagles on Friday night, September 30th. Tip off is at 7:30PM. After the drama, thrills and spills of the opening weekend, you won’t want to miss this.
Photo: Harry Collins