by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered a disappointing defeat against the Newcastle Eagles in the first leg of the BBL Trophy Semi-Final.
Cheshire’s off-night on the offensive end allowed the Eagles to take over the game in the third quarter and earn themselves a nine-point advantage heading into the second leg of the Semi-Final. Newcastle crushed the Nix on the glass as they grabbed 23 offensive rebounds to Cheshire’s nine. The Eagles outscored Cheshire in the paint, 50-22.
Ben Mockford tallied a game-high 24 points while Rahmon Fletcher led the way for the Eagles with 23 points on 57 FG%.
The game got off to a flying start as the two sides combined for 10 points in the first two minutes. The two teams were tied at 12-points apiece at the mid-way point of the first. The Nix played excellent defense in the opening frame, however, they struggled on the offensive end, as they only shot 31% from the field. Despite their shooting woes, the hosts were marginally better in the first 10 minutes as they went into the second quarter up 22-20.
The teams traded baskets in the first two minutes of the second period of play. C.J. Gettys’ put-back dunk at the 7:10 mark put Newcastle in the ascendancy. Louis Sayers helped the Nix reinstate their initial 2-point lead after he replied with a three-point bucket at the 7:00 mark. Mockford’s outrageously deep three-point shot pushed Phoenix’s lead to seven points at the mid-way point of the quarter. Cheshire tried to extend their advantage before the break, however, Gettys’ defensive prowess helped the Eagles get multiple defensive stops during the closing minutes of the first half. Cheshire went into the locker room up 44-43 after a tightly contested half.
The Nix were kept scoreless for the first two minutes of the penultimate quarter. Jackson-Cartwright stopped the drought after he connected on a three-point attempt. The visitors made a flurry of shots from three-point range which helped them create a six-point cushion at the half-way point of the third. Rodney Glasgow’s two-point bucket at the 3:01 mark pushed Newcastle’s lead to nine. Phoenix’s lackadaisical rebounding paired with poor shooting allowed the Eagles to go into the final quarter up 63-57.
The guests jumped out to their first double-digit lead as they opened the fourth quarter with an 8-3 run inside the first three minutes. The Nix closed the gap to six after they answered back with a 5-0 run of their own. Cheshire battled hard until the end of the game, however, Newcastle’s resilience, offensive rebounding, and stifling defense helped them secure the win at the final buzzer, 88-79.
KEY TEAM STAT: 8 Blocks. The Nix played fantastic defense, especially in the first half, however, their sub-par shooting combined with poor rebounding let them down in the end.