by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix got off to a winning start in the BBL Championship after they triumphed in a tightly contested affair against the Manchester Giants.
The fixture proved to be much more difficult than their last two encounters against the Mancunians, as the Giants fought hard all night long and made it very difficult for the Nix to establish a comfortable lead at any point during the game.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Ben Mockford and Michael Ochereobia led the Nix in scoring with 16-points each. Jalen Hayes pick-pocketed Phoenix’s opponents six times on the night, while Demonte Flannigan crashed the boards well, as he hustled for five offensive rebounds in 23 minutes of play.
The two teams were evenly matched to start off the game, as neither side could create any separation after five minutes of play. The two squads traded blows until the 2:43 mark of the quarter, when the Nix managed to create nine-point cushion after they embarked on a 8-0 run. The quarter was played at a high pace, however both teams struggled to make shots during the opening 10 minutes. The Giants shot 33% from the field while the Nix were a little more accurate with 40% FG which meant the guests went into the second quarter up 22-16.
The Giants started the second period of play well, as they made three shots from beyond the arc in the first few minutes and reduced Phoenix’s advantage to just three points. The hosts came within a point of Cheshire after Jack Hudson converted an open lay-up at the 5:30 mark of the quarter. The Nix eventually stopped Manchester’s scoring surge and went on a 6-0 run of their own, however all their good work was undone in a matter of 24 seconds as the Giants connected on two shots from three-point land and closed the gap to just one-point yet again. The hosts gained the lead after a buzzer-beater from Giants debutant David Ulph, which meant that the Nix trailed 38-39 going into half-time.
Both teams began the second half slowly as no points were scored until the 7:41 mark of the third quarter, when Del’Vin Dickerson extended Giants’ lead to three points following his two makes from the charity stripe. Phoenix regained the lead at the 6:43 mark, after Flannigan connected on a turnaround jump-shot inside the paint. The visitors extended their advantage to eight points after Jackson-Cartwright made an acrobatic lay-up on a fast-break. The Nix played tough defence and sustained their scoring for the rest of the quarter, which allowed them to go into the final 10 minutes up 57-47.
The Giants got off to a flying start in the fourth quarter, as they reduced Phoenix’s initial 10-point lead to just two with less than five minutes left to play. A three-point basket by Jackson-Cartwright at the 4:12 mark gave Cheshire a bit of breathing room. The team didn’t take its foot off the gas as they followed up on PJC’s make with a couple of efficient two-point baskets which meant that their lead swelled to nine-points with just two minutes remaining. Disraeli Lufadeju hit a dagger three-point shot with 49 seconds remaining which helped the Cheshire Phoenix seal their first win of the regular season, 77-69.
KEY TEAM STAT: 22 forced TO. Phoenix played good defence against Manchester, as they forced their opponents into numerous silly mistakes . They also done a good job pickpocketing the Giants as they accumulated 12 steals on the night.