by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix will aim to advance to the Semi-Final of the BBL Cup when they’ll clash with the London City Royals at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on the 1st December.
Sunday’s hosts finished their group-stage campaign of the Cup with a league-best record of 8 wins and 2 losses. The City Royals won all of their home games. The only contests the Londoners dropped were away to the Flyers and Lions.
Cheshire started the season with four losses in a row, however they recovered half-way through the group-stage campaign and proceeded to win five out of their last six fixtures. The addition of Ben Mockford proved to be crucial as the British guard has averaged close to 20-points-per-game ever since his arrival. Mockford has also been responsible for some clutch plays during crunch-time that helped the Nix secure precious wins away in Leicester and Glasgow.
Despite their remarkable overall record, the City Royals weren’t dominant during the closing stages of the group-stage. They only obtained a 2-2 record during their final four games. Furthermore, their two triumphs weren’t very convincing, as they were both single-digit victories. The Nix will come into the building with momentum on their side.
Matthew Scott will be the player that Phoenix will have to slow down, the 6’4 guard has played like an absolute star since the start of the season. He’s averaging 20.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Most recently, the American scored 33 points on 12-15 FG against the Plymouth Raiders. Will Neighbour, Andrew Lawrence, Ed Lucas and Orlan Jackman make up the supporting cast around Scott. They are all very good players who will try to cause the Nix some problems on Sunday. London’s starters all averaged double-digit points during the opening stage of the Cup.
The Nix will have plenty of fire-power for Sunday’s game. As mentioned before, Ben Mockford has possibly been the most in-form player in the league, he has wowed home and away crowds with his ability to make tough shots from beyond the arc, especially during the last two minutes of closely contested games. Parker Jackson-Cartwright has been a true floor-general ever since his arrival. The American point-guard is averaging 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. PJC has fallen just short of a of triple-double on two occasions so far. Hopefully he’s been saving such performance for the Quarter-Final.
Jalen Hayes has also had a good season so far, averaging 15.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. The forward has brought a lot of energy and toughness to the Nix. His inside presence will be huge on Sunday. In order to boost Phoenix’s chances of advancing, he will need to dominate the paint. Momcilo Latinovic, Louis Sayers, Disareli Lufadeju and new signing Demonte Flannigan will also be expected to leave their mark on Sunday’s fixture too.
Phoenix’s opponents have shown that they can shoot at a high level, especially from three-point range, as they’re averaging 34.8% 3PT as a team. Their bench production is impressive too, London’s second unit has contributed with 178 points so far, compared to Cheshire’s 91. In order for the Nix to get a result on Sunday they’ll need their bench, which is now a little deeper because of Latinovic’s recovery and Flannigan’s arrival, to match Royals’ production. The Nix have plenty of good three-point shooters themselves. The key to winning the game will be for guys like Mockford, Sayers and Jackson-Cartwright to have hot hands all night long.
BRING THE NOISE! GO PHOENIX!