by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix secured their fifth win in the regular season against the Sheffield Sharks.
The Nix obliterated their opponents in the first half, as they made 62% of their shots in the opening 20 minutes, while they restricted the Sharks to just 30% shooting from the floor in the same time period.
The Sharks regrouped and performed much better in the second half, as they took advantage of a visibly fatigued Cheshire team but they fell just short of completing a miraculous comeback.
Jalen Hayes rallied the troops as he tallied a game-high 28 points on an efficient 53 FG%. Parker Jackson-Cartwright played all 40 minutes and amassed 19 points, 8 assists, and four steals. Pharroh Gordon contributed with a good all-around performance off the bench, Cheshire’s new recruit accumulated six points, five rebounds, and four assists in 23 minutes.
The Nix started the game well as they made four of their first five attempts from the floor. The Sharks weren’t able to match Phoenix’s efficiency, however, their offensive rebounding restricted the Nix from jumping out to a substantial lead. Cheshire controlled the mid-way point of the opening quarter and outscored their opponents 8-2 during the last two minutes which meant they went into the second period of play up 25-16.
PJC helped the Nix get off to a dazzling 5-0 run in the opening 38 seconds of the second quarter after he connected on a three-point attempt and converted a lay-up in transition after he pick-pocketed Mackey McKnight. Disraeli Lufadeju’s three-point bucket at the 8:39 mark pushed Cheshire’s lead to 15 points. The lead swelled to 21 points after Demonte Flannigan connected on a corner three at the 7:18 mark. Gordon increased Cheshire’s cushion to 25 after he connected on an attempt from deep. The guests found their footing late on and stopped Cheshire’s onslaught, however, they still found themselves down 30-53 at half-time. The Sharks simply had no answer for the Nix in the first half.
Nick Lewis opened the second half with a three-point basket, Robert Marsden followed up with a two-pointer which trimmed Phoenix’s cushion to 18. Cheshire reinstated their lead shortly after Sheffield’s five-point burst, thanks to a couple of intricate plays from Jackson-Cartwright and Flannigan. The Sharks played a little better than the hosts during the mid-way point of the penultimate quarter as they reduced the deficit to 14 points with 3:35 left in the third. Connor Cashaw’s long two-pointer reduced Phoenix’s advantage to single-digits with just over a minute left in the third quarter. The Nix replied with a 5-0 run during the final minute and went into the final quarter up 68-56.
Cheshire opened the fourth quarter with a 6-2 run. Flannigan’s buzzer-beating lay-up forced coach Lyons to call a time-out with 7:11 remaining in the game. Lewis brought his side within eight points of the Nix after he converted his and-one play at the 4:50 mark. Louis Sayers connected on a huge corner three which gave the Nix an 11-point cushion with less than three minutes until the final buzzer. The Sharks got to within two points of the Nix, however, Hayes iced the game from the free-throw line during the dying seconds of the game. Ben Thomas’ soldiers battled hard to protect their lead against the pesky Sharks and ultimately triumphed 83-78.
KEY TEAM STAT: 50% 3PT. The Nix were automatic from deep in the first half. Their shooting allowed them to build a huge 25-point lead which the Sharks never managed to wipe out.