Cheshire Phoenix hosted a sell out crowd at the new Cheshire Oaks Arena for the opening home BBL Championship fixture, but a stunning third quarter eventually helped local rivals Manchester Giants take the plaudits 75-87.
After securing a first win of the season away to Leeds Force, hopes were high of a repeat result against Yorick Williams’ Giants.
Despite being short after Sean McGonagill picked up a knock in the opening fixture, early in the first quarter Phoenix found their feet with 61% from the field and held an eight point lead before Giants clawed on through Stefan Gill to end the period down five 25-20.
Captain David Aliu restored the eight point gap, but the visitors began to turn the screw from beyond the perimeter and eat into the Phoenix lead. Martyn Gayle gave Cheshire the edge with a late shot from out wide to go into the locker room 41-39 up.
After the break both sides traded baskets, until Manchester took control putting huge defensive pressure on Phoenix and taking advantage and converting costly turnovers. Gill once more made it count from three point range and turned the game on its head, but Williams’ points from the line gave a glimmer of a chance at 55-67 going into the final ten minutes.
With the Nix Nation in fine voice, they brilliantly took on their sixth man role as ever in an attempt to bring the Phoenix home. Akeem Ellis and Williams helped cut the deficit to ten points but Manchester kept up their intensity to defeat the Nix 75-87.
Aliu put in a captain’s performance with a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds, with top scorer overall being Williams on 25 points.
Although it was a disappointing result, Akeem Ellis had more great praise of the Nix Nation: “I felt the energy since I left the house! I love the fans and I hope they continue to come out, because we definitely going to win for them and put on a show.”
Leader on court, David Aliu was also thankful of the support, but hoped to have brought the victory home: “That’s what hurts the most fans are unbelievable it was a great atmosphere looked full and what more than to give them a win but we couldn’t do that and I am disappointed in that.”
Coach John Lavery marked out the performance out of the locker room after the break as being the turning point: “We gave up 28 points in the third quarter it wasn’t good enough, our defensive intensity wasn’t there, people missed assignments which filtered through the team.
“We will get back out on the practice floor and get ready for Saturday,” Lavery went on to say.
With the return of basketball to Ellesmere Port complete, Lavery gave special thanks to the supporters and despite the loss he promised fans to make amends going forwards: “It’s great to come back to Ellesmere Port, the club’s come home to where it started.
“The fans were absolutely fantastic tonight, I applaud and appreciate all of them for all their support and it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get over the line for the win but will work hard it’s disappointing but will put things right.”