Cheshire Phoenix missed out on the chance to secure a first home BBL Championship victory and second place in the table with a 76-78 defeat by Glasgow Rocks.
Looking to build on their fine unbeaten form on the road, Phoenix hopes were high of picking up a memorable win at the new Cheshire Oaks Arena.
A buzzer beating effort from Sean McGonagill to win the game came agonisingly short as the Scottish visitors completed a turn around despite a five point deficit going into the final quarter.
New Nix recruit Kinu Rochford featured in the starting five for Cheshire, and took command of the match up early on, leading 17-12 in the first quarter.
An explosive beginning to the second period with a 7-0 run rounded off with a huge Jordan Williams dunk to wow the sell-out Ellesmere Port crowd.
Glasgow had the opportunity to close the gap as Phoenix quickly found themselves in foul trouble, but were fortunate that Marcus Ware could not find his aim from the free throw line, however Rocks stuck to their task and hung on to the coat tails of John Lavery’s side, before Jeff Dirkin and Nix captain David Aliu helped in restoring a lead of 38-32 at the end of the half.
Out of the locker room, the visitors battled to stay in touch and tied the game through Warren Gillis, but stepping up their efforts Cheshire rallied through Williams once again and stretched out to a nine point lead before two three-point plays by the Rocks brought them back into the game trailing by three, before a late score from Rochford saw Phoenix go into the final quarter with a lead of five once more, 59-54.
Sterling Davis’ side dug deep and put together a 12-2 run on the way to wrestling the lead back for just the second time in the game, but as the clock ticked down, Cheshire kept their nerve and showed determination in bringing the game back to a final second play, keeping the Nix Nation on the edge of their seats right until the final buzzer, when McGonagill’s attempt failed to drop giving Glasgow the win 76-78.
Akeem Ellis was top scorer overall with 26 points on the night, and next top scorer for Cheshire was Jordan Williams with a haul of 19. Newcomer Rochford claimed ten boards on his debut with Dirkin just shy of a double-double with nine rebounds and eight points.
Coach John Lavery was quick to put the result to the back of his mind and push focus on the task ahead with unbeaten Newcastle Eagles on the horizon: “Any defeat is tough to take – we are disappointed but we can’t change anything now; we’ve to move forward and address what we didn’t do well and get ready in practice this week for Friday.
“Glasgow are a good unit, recruited well over the summer, they should have won at Leicester on Saturday so we knew it was going to be a tough game for us. We played well in patches, but didn’t in other so we put this behind us and focus on Friday.
“We’ve got to get over that little hurdle of winning here but it will come and we will be patient but we’ve got to work hard and put the things we’ve done wrong tonight into practice ready for Friday.”
Speaking about the turnout of the support once again at Cheshire Oaks Arena, Lavery went on to say: “It’s fantastic, it’s a great organisation through everybody; the paid staff, the volunteers who give up an extreme amount of time and were really thankful of those guys. We couldn’t do off the floor what we’re doing without those guys giving us their support. Another great crowd again, and we couldn’t get that win for them but we’ll do everything we can to change that.”
Cheshire Phoenix MVP Akeem Ellis highlighted the tough nature of the loss and how it could have so easily have swayed back in favour of the Nix Nation: “It was our second chance opportunities at the end that killed us, crashing boards, and their aggressive play to see out that one play win.
“Although we’ve not had the win here yet, on the road we’re doing well, but when we get those home wins it’ll be a great feeling for us and the fans.”
Cheshire Phoenix play on Friday away to Newcastle Eagles, and the next home game will take place on Sunday 25th October against London Lions, where tickets are available now to purchase online.