by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix secured their first win of the season against the Leicester Riders.
The Nix played great defence all night as they limited their opponents to 35% shooting from the field and an abysmal 17% shooting from beyond the arc. The win was also fuelled by Ben Mockford’s 20-point performance, which included some clutch baskets in crucial moments of the game.
The visitors missed their first four shots and committed a couple of silly turnovers in the opening minutes of the game, but good defence from Ben Thomas’ men meant that the Riders weren’t able to build an early lead. Louis Sayers, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and new signing Ben Mockford sunk a combined four shots from beyond the arc in the first five minutes of the quarter, which allowed the Nix to create a six-point advantage for themselves. Phoenix found themselves up 24-15 at the end of the first quarter as they continued to make three-point shots and defended well against the hosts.
The second quarter started with an impressive alley-oop from the Riders, but Mockford quickly answered back for the Nix, with a make from three-point land. A defensive stop combined with a back-to-the-basket play from Michael Ochereobia helped Phoenix extend their lead to double digits at the 7:54 mark of the quarter. Despite all of Cheshire’s good work over a period of a quarter and a half it was nearly in vain as the Riders went on a 12-0 run in just four minutes of play and reduced the deficit to just one point. Jalen Hayes’ lay-up stopped the run with just one minute left in the half. The Nix went into the second half up 37-34.
The hosts started the third quarter in similar fashion to the first, as they forced the Nix into silly turnovers but once again, they weren’t able to capitalise, as the Nix were still up by three points after three minutes of play. Unfortunately for the Riders, point-guard Kyron Cartwright was severely injured at the 6:59 mark of the quarter and never returned. Mockford extended the Nix’s lead to seven after he was fouled on a three-point attempt and also made a tough lay-up midway through the quarter. The visitors went into the last quarter of the game up 51-44 as the two sides traded blows and cancelled themselves out in the last three minutes of the penultimate quarter.
The Riders managed to cut into Phoenix’s lead early in the last period of play but a three-pointer from Hayes extended the Nix’s lead to eight points with eight minutes left to play. The guests needed to slow down the game and they did just that, as the two sides scored just one basket each, nearly half-way through the fourth quarter. Mockford made a tough shot from beyond the arc at the 6:02 mark which extended Phoenix’s cushion to 11 points and also forced Leicester to call an emergency time-out. The Nix allowed their opponents to go on a 8-3 run in the closing minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough for the Riders to overturn the deficit as the Cheshire Phoenix ran out victorious 64-58.
Key Team Stat: 43 rebounds. The team simply out-fought their opponents and won the rebounding battle 43 to 40. The Nix also made seven more three-point baskets than the Riders, on a much higher percentage.