A phenomenal final quarter performance provided a 98-90 scoreline for Cheshire Phoenix at home to local rivals Manchester Giants – helping secure a fourth consecutive victory on Sunday night and lifted the side to fourth in the BBL Championship.
At one stage being 14 points adrift in the third quarter, Coach Lavery’s side held firm and were able to produce a 37-21 period to claim the win.
Coming in off the back of an emphatic showing at Leeds on Friday night, this momentum continued with Kinu Rochford helping the side quickly stretch out a healthy 18-8 lead before the visiting Giants dug deep to keep within three, 23-20, by the end of the quarter.
Rochford again went to work for the Nix midway through the second period extending the lead to 40-34, before a dominant end to the half by Yorick Williams’ team who put together a 12-0 rally, before Jordan Williams nailed a three-point attempt to close the gap to 43-46 going into the locker room.
However, Giants were looked to turn the screw further on the Nix, and put huge pressure on defence surging forward and establishing control of the game as Stefan Gill produced the biggest threat from the visitors as they hit their largest 14-pt lead of the game, before Cheshire began their revival closing the third 61-69.
Both sides traded points early in the final quarter, before Williams’ converted his free throw a game-changing four-point play that almost took the roof off the Cheshire Oaks Arena. Another eight consecutive points from Williams saw the game turn on its head and incredible
defence from Sedale Hanson-Young, who despite being on four fouls, kept Gill quiet on four points in the final period, allowing Rochford and Williams to go to work, the latter claiming 19 points in the last ten minutes alone.
It was a magnificent display for Lavery’s side, who pulled ahead and kept the series level at 1-1 with confidence and determination, leaving the Nix Nation to enjoy their first home BBL Championship victory in their new home.
Rochford finished on 31 points and 18 rebounds on the night, a stunning effort, with Williams also claiming 31 points as well. However the all-round performance of Cheshire gave rise for credit for the whole side.
Coach Lavery knew his side could find it within themselves to turn things around, and never left belief: “We dug in and got a new lease of life in the fourth quarter, and that’s all credit to the guys and the hard work they’ve put in throughout the week to come out on the high side.
“It’s tough playing two games in a week, especially with our small rotation and being one down with David [Aliu] at the moment, so it makes it a harder task for the other guys.
“We never died out there, we stayed together, whatever five was out there – we never gave up.”
Akeem Ellis knew the team needed to shut out Gill’s efforts in order to get back into the game and, alongside his team-mates, knew there was always the ability to pick themselves up after going in at the break down three points.
“They got us in a very very big hole in the first Stefan gill was going off, hitting a lot of shots and struggled to contain him. We went in, we talked, regrouped and got things together and a few things worked out; Sedale did amazing defence on Gill in the fourth holding him to four points and that’s what really did it for us.
Ellis also gave a great response to the Nix Nation as they rallied the team on: “Our fans are always behind us, ever when we’re down and on the losing streak we had; they got behind us again tonight and we cannot say how much we loved that.”
Finally with the inclusion of newcomer from the U18s side, Luke Gosney, Akeem hopes that a result of this nature and the work taking place in practice during the week can help the team as a whole move forward positively and inspire the younger crop coming through: “We love Luke, Max and Ben. They help us as players get better each day, and we want to show them what it’s like on the court and where they’re going to be in a few years.”
Match Report by Rob Jeffries. Photo courtesy of Adam Day Photography.