Preston’s College Titans Under-18s basketball squad blasted their way to the top of the North West D-League table after a pair of wins over Cheshire Wire and Sefton Stars respectively.
Having been forced to play two games on the same day due to a fixture backlog, they calmly dispatched of a weak Cheshire Wire team 76-53.
Sheik Sheriff had a field day with 17 points, including several high-flying slam dunks.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Sheik. “We started off a bit rocky but soon settled into our rhythm and came together as a team.”
Ramaar Morgan-Johnson added 16 and Khalil Baro scored 15 points for the Titans, who are off to the best start in the National League since they joined in 2014.
No sooner had the buzzer sounded at Preston’s College Sport Centre, than the team were sat in a minibus making the hour-long ride down to Sefton to take on the Stars, who loitered near the foot of the table.
Preston showed no ill-effects of travel as they carried on from where they left off.
A 22-6 tear to open the game gave Sefton no glimmer of hope as the streaking duo of Sheriff and Baro set the tone early doors with some superb team-orientated play.
Going into the start of the second quarter 26-8 up, coach Chris Hodkin rotated his bench whilst resting his starters.
“It’s tough playing one game never mind two,” said Hodkin.
“We used our heads and played hard but smart as well.
“Tiredness was always going to creep in but we made sure we had guys that were fresh off of the bench ready to step in and give our starters the rest they needed.”
With a commanding 49-26 lead at the half, and the result seemingly in no doubt.
Hodkin stuck with the rotation and soon the lead ballooned from a 23-point lead to a 40-point difference.
With five minutes to go and the inevitable tired legs of Preston, Sefton put together an 18-0 answer which was too little too late.
Jonathan Facey ended the scoring drought for Preston as his solitary two points of the contest capped an 80-56 win and top spot in the table.
Again, Sheriff underlined his supremacy as one of the best players in the league with another dominant performance, scoring 26 points with Baro adding 23 points in a supporting role.
“Sheik’s work ethic is second to none,” said Hodkin. “He knows he is not a natural scorer so he does the other things like rebounds and put back the other players’ misses.
“He isn’t the finished product by any stretch and he has some defensive improvements to make.”
The reigning Under-18s North-West Champions have now opened up the season in true Titans fashion posting perfect 7-0 record.
In doing so they have set a league-best 84.7 points per game average, whilst restricting the opposition to a mere 57.8 points per contest.
All eyes now shift to this weekend when Preston host Allerton Leeds Force in the National Cup round of 16.
In other action, the Senior Men’s National Basketball Development League (NBDL) team missed out on consolidating top spot in the North West Division as their game against Carlisle was postponed, allowing Chester to leapfrog them. They travel to face Kendal on Saturday.