by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix obtained their second win of the regular season after they triumphed in an overtime thriller against the Leicester Riders.
The two teams put on a show for those in attendance, as they battled at a hectic pace for the whole duration of the game. Ben Mockford tallied a game-high 31 points, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright also contributed with 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the night. Jalen Hayes was hugely important in the overtime period as he went on a scoring surge early on and grabbed crucial rebounds during the closing stages of the game. Overall it was a huge team effort and a statement victory from the Cheshire Phoenix.
Both sides started the fixture well as the first five shots of the game were all on the money. The Nix worked tirelessly on both ends of the floor, not allowing their opponents to create any separation. Phoenix took control of the game midway through the quarter as they kept the Riders scoreless for three straight minutes and created a five-point cushion for themselves. Phoenix closed the quarter on a 5-3 run however a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Andrew Thomson meant that the Nix went into the second quarter up by just two points.
The second period of play started with a three-point make by Jackson-Cartwright however Leicester answered back with a 5-0 run which put them into the ascendancy for the first time. The visitors extended their lead to five points at the 5:54 mark of the quarter. Phoenix stopped the bleeding shortly after as Hayes completed his post-up move. Michael Ochereobia’s powerful dunk at the 3:28 mark tied the game. The Riders closed out the first half a little better and managed to connect on another buzzer-beating three-point shot which meant that the Nix trailed 39-43 after the first 20 minutes.
Cheshire opened the second half with a 4-0 run however the Riders bettered it with a 9-0 run of their own, which pushed their advantage to nine points. Leicester created the first double-digit separation of the game after Darien Nelson-Henry made a tough lay-up in the paint. The Nix refused to give up, as they reduced the deficit to just three points after a couple of big plays by Jackson-Cartwright during the midway point of the third quarter. The Nix regained the lead with just 43 seconds left in the quarter following a lay-up by Ochereobia, however, the guests connected on a lay-up of their own at the buzzer and went into the final quarter with a slim 64-63 lead.
The Nix established a four-point lead at the start of the final quarter thanks to an avalanche of points by floor general PJC. Cheshire pushed their lead up to five points with seven minutes left to play. The Riders forced the Nix into a couple of offensive fouls and silly turnovers which allowed them to cut Phoenix’s lead to just one point. Jamell Anderson’s dunk put Leicester ahead with four minutes remaining. The last three minutes of regulation were incredible, despite being marked by turnovers and careless mistakes from both teams. Ochereobia unfortunately picked up his fifth personal foul, meaning he had to sit for the remainder of the game. Mockford thought he’d won it for the Nix after he sunk a late three-point shot but the Riders came right back and tied the game with five seconds left. The two sides couldn’t be separated at the end of regulation, as the game finished 79-79, which meant that an additional five minutes were played.
Hayes scored Phoenix’s first five points in OT, while Namon Wright carried the load for the Riders. PJC obtained three steals in the space of just 20 seconds, during the last minute of overtime, which helped the Nix establish a one-point advantage. Mockford iced the game at the free-throw line and the Nix ran out victorious 95-91 after 45 minutes of play.
KEY TEAM STAT: 51% FG. Cheshire shot better than their opponents on the night, they also grabbed more rebounds than the Riders. Rebounding and shooting are two of the key ingredients to obtaining a win and the Nix achieved both.