by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix will host the Leicester Riders in their home opener of the 2019-20 BBL Championship at the Cheshire Oaks Arena on the 15th December.
The Nix started the season in Manchester, where they registered their first W of the campaign, following an 8-point victory against the Giants. The Riders began their season at home against the Plymouth Raiders, they won the game comfortably, 97-79.
Despite their triumph on the road, the Nix will be looking to improve their performance and efficiency on Sunday night, however it won’t be an easy task, as the Riders have established themselves as one of the elite teams in the BBL, having made the Finals every year since the 2015-16 season, winning three titles in the process.
The two sides have met each other twice this season already, albeit in a different competition, the BBL Cup. They split the series after both teams obtained victories away from home. Namon Wright performed well for Leicester in both games, as he scored a combined 31 points on 11 for 22 shooting. The guard also secured 17 rebounds and accumulated four steals. Ben Mockford grabbed all the headlines on his Phoenix debut at the Morningside Arena, as he scored 20 points and made some huge baskets during the closing stages of the game, which allowed the Nix to snatch a crucial win on the road. Coach Thomas will be looking for more of the same from his 6’2 British guard.
Coach Paternostro will have plenty of talent at his disposal for Sunday’s fixture. Jamell Anderson, Kyron Cartwright and Josh Ward-Hibbert are some of the players that the Nix will have to be careful of. Cartwright posted up a near triple-double in Leicester’s home opener against Plymouth, as he amassed 11 points, eight rebounds and an incredible 19 assists on the night. Jamell Anderson and Wright combined for 46 points on 16 for 27 shooting, while Ward-Hibbert contributed with nine points and six rebounds off the bench.
Phoenix were held to just 33% and 37% shooting from the floor in the previous meetings against the Riders. The percentage must rise on Sunday in order for the Nix to grab their second win of the season. Cheshire limited their opponents to 35% FG and an abysmal 17% from 3PT last time out, so playing stifling defence for 40 minutes will be one of the keys to winning their third match-up against Leicester.
Ben Thomas’s men failed to create good spacing on the 8th December against the Giants, which meant that the three-point specialists had a tough time getting their shots off. Coach Thomas insisted that his players will need to set better screens for each other in order to create good looks. The Nix connected on just five of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc against Manchester. The shooter’s union consisting of Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Louis Sayers and Ben Mockford will be tasked with replicating the performance they put on last time against Leicester, while Jalen Hayes and Michael Ochereobia will be expected to bring the toughness inside the paint.
Cheshire will need to be fully focused for the entire 40 minutes of the game, as the Riders will look to take advantage of any slip-ups by the Nix. Most importantly, Phoenix will have to make shots at a high clip in order to get the W over a talented Leicester team.
BRING THE NOISE! GO PHOENIX!