Cheshire Phoenix head coach John Lavery praised his team’s ‘never say die’ attitude as they overturned a 16-point deficit to beat Glasgow Rocks at the Cheshire Oaks Arena on Sunday night.
Another strong turnout saw the Nix give their BBL play-off hopes a massive boost as they took the head-to-head with their Scottish rivals, themselves needing a win to strengthen their own charge to the post-season.
Cheshire, paced by a game-high 24 points from the excellent Danny Huffor, started the game slowly but overcame their recent third-quarter issues to surge past Sterling Davis’s Rocks to edge them within two points of the fifth-placed Scottish side.
Lavery said: “People are calling it a little bit of a hex in the third quarter but we called a time-out and we addressed it. From then on, once we took the lead I don’t think we looked back. I thought we were comfortably in control of the game.
“What is pleasing is that there is a never say die attitude, even when we have got our backs against the wall.
“A lot of teams can lay down and fold and just play the game out, but not with this unit. They want to win and they want to climb that table as much as possible. The table is really, really bunching up and it’s good that we take the head-to-head with Glasgow.”
Cheshire had a poor start in the opening quarter and went in 27-13 down as they failed to execute in transition and allowed Glasgow too many open looks both inside and outside.
But they emerged stronger in the second quarter, going on a 12-0 run to bring themselves within striking distance of the Rocks. But a late push from the visitors saw them head into the locker room with a six-point advantage at 40-34.
And the third-quarter woes that have dogged them in recent weeks looked to be back early in the third when Glasgow pushed out their lead but Cheshire rallied and kept their foot to the gas for the remainder of the quarter to tie-up the game at 59-59 heading into the final stanza.
Big second-half performances from ex-Rocks ace Huffor, the dependable Akeem Ellis (21 points) and point guard Quincy Taylor (20 points) saw the Nix hit the front and never look back, stretching their lead to as many as 12 in the final period before a late Riley Grabau three ball brought it back into single figures.
“I thought we started slow and sloppy, they came out and hit us really hard,” said Lavery.
“We got a little bit of momentum back at the end of the first quarter and went in at half-time six points down and discussed at the break that we needed to come out hard because we can’t start in the third the way we did in the first. Unfortunately we did.
“They played zone (defence) for the majority of the game. Especially in the first half I think we had some good looks but just didn’t knock them down. But in the second half we got a little bit more momentum. We changed things up a little bit at half-time to compensate for their zone and it worked for us. We were going inside, outside a lot more and we pushed the ball a lot more. In the first half we couldn’t get any transition baskets because our defence wasn’t good enough.
“But we came out in the second half and played a lot better defensively and that leads to easy transition buckets.”