Heat win first away game of the season
01 October 2012
The Surrey Heat kept up their winning start to the season with a comfortable road win against the Sheffield Sharks on Sunday evening. The Sharks provided a stiffer test for the Heat than the Tigers had the weekend before, but ultimately they were swept away in a dominant third quarter. The Heat turned a one point deficit into a sixteen point lead behind an 18-0 run, on their way to outscoring the home side, 24-7. This left the Heat in an unassailable position going into the fourth quarter and they were able to hold off the Sharks challenge to run out 81-69 winners.
The game had started well for the Heat who used an 11-3 run to build a 21-10 lead with three minutes to go. This was the result of solid defence, which in turn allowed the Heat to get out and run, with 10 points coming from fast-breaks, Martelle McLemore being the main recipient. A Sharks timeout seemed to restore order and they sharpened up their transition defence, allowing the Heat just one more fast-break score in the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, the Sharks started to find their way into the paint, fighting back to make it 25-18 to the Heat at the end of the first quarter, part of a 13-6 Sharks run spanning the first and second quarters. However, the second quarter was all Sharks as they retook the lead with a 13-2 run, the Heat’s only points coming from a pair of free-throws from captain Julius Joseph. This left the Heat trailing 33-38 with three minutes to go, but they rallied, Frank Holmes scoring inside after working hard to grab two offensive rebounds. Sam Cricelli then scored the last four points of the quarter, closing the gap to just one point, 41-42, at half time.
However, any thoughts the Sharks had of taking the momentum into the second half swiftly evaporated. Chavis Holmes put the Heat into the lead for good, scoring on an inbounds play with a shot from the corner. That put the Heat ahead, 43-42, and although Micah Williams tied the scores at 43-43 with a free-throw seconds later, that was as close as they would get.
All game it would be fair to say that the refereeing was inconsistent. Blatant contact went uncalled while touch fouls were whistled. Frank Holmes was particularly incensed by a call that went against him under the basket in the opening minutes of the second half. However, basketball justice was done as Ola Babalola missed both his free throws, spurning a chance to put the Sharks back in front.
Several other calls went against the Heat in the next minute or so, but it seemed to motivate the players rather than put them off their stride. Peter Simek came on for Frank Holmes and immediately scored inside, one of a number of impressive finishes at the rim by the young Slovak.
This triggered an 18-0 run as the Heat shut out the Sharks for over five minutes. Heat head coach Creon Raftopoulos was delighted by his team’s defence and credited their ability to keep the Sharks out of the paint as the key to the victory. Sam Cricelli scored six points in the run, all on mid-range jump shots, while Martelle McLemore scored with a put-back, having had his drive stopped by Mike Tuck.
The Sharks called a timeout, but it was to no avail as Chavis Holmes got to the line for a pair of free-throws and then stole the ball, only to be fouled on his way to the basket, leading to another pair of free-throws. Albert Margai finished the run with a coast-to-coast drive.
That made it 61-43 with three minutes to go and forced the Sharks into a second timeout. Although they started scoring again, it was too little, too late, as the Heat kept pace with the Sharks for the rest of the quarter, taking a 65-49 lead into the final quarter.
The Heat had played an outstanding third quarter, winning it 24-7. Even the Tigers had scored more than seven points in each quarter in their defeat the previous week. The Heat performance was full of energy and they used any sense of injustice they felt at perceived poor calls to motivate themselves. The defence was outstanding, forcing multiple Sharks turnovers, which got the Heat fast break going again.
Any hope the Sharks had of a comeback slowly slipped away as the Heat kept up the pressure in the fourth quarter. With five minutes to go, the Sharks had cut the Heat lead to 12 at 73-61, but then came the defining play of the fourth quarter. Martelle stripped the ball from Mike Tuck on the half-way line and set off for the basket. He was sizing up a dunk when he was fouled by a frustrated Tuck.
It was adjudged an unsportsmanlike foul, since in the referees’ opinion, he had made no attempt to play the ball. This incensed Sharks coach Lyons, who got a technical foul for his troubles, leading to a total of four foul shots for the Heat and possession. This effectively put an end to the Sharks challenge and the Heat ran out winners, 81-69.
The Heat were led by Chavis Holmes, with a game-high double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, including going 11-12 from the line. Martelle McLemore posted 17 points and eight rebounds, while Sam Cricelli chipped in with 16 points on 8-13 shooting to go with his six rebounds. Julius Joseph had a captain’s game with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Peter Simek had nine points in a solid performance off the bench.
For the Sharks, Gage Daye had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Mike Tuck also had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Andrew Bridge had 15 points, but only three in the second half.
Talking after the game, Heat head coach, Creon Raftopoulos, was delighted with the result:
“I was delighted to get such a big road win. We played some great defence: I’m very happy with where we are defensively and we’re only going to get better. Sam Cricelli and Chavis Holmes played really well and are going to be excellent players in the league this season.”
The Heat now look forward to a trip to London on Friday, 5th October, to take on the Lions and ex-Heat players, Mike Martin and Tayo Ogedengbe, before returning home to host the Worcester Wolves on Sunday, 7th October, 3 o’clock at the Surrey Sports Park.