by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix eclipsed the Manchester Giants in the North West Derby.
The Nix obtained their fourth win of the season over the Giants following a great all-around performance on Sunday night.
Ben Thomas’ men played brilliant team basketball for the full 40 minutes as they accumulated 27 assists on 34 made baskets and also hustled harder than their opponents as they won the rebounding battle 31-to-27.
Jalen Hayes was stellar on the night as he notched himself a 24-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright poured in 20 points along with 13 assists.
The Nix opened the game with a scorching-hot 9-3 stretch, with Hayes providing an early highlight, a vicious slam dunk in Phoenix’s first possession. The Nix kept up the intensity and increased their lead to seven at the half-way point of the first quarter. Manchester managed to trim Phoenix’s advantage to three, however, the hosts outscored the guests 7-to-5 in the last two minutes and went into the second frame on the high side, 28-23.
The Giants started the second quarter with a 4-0 run inside the first minute, however, their well-worked stretch was stopped by Demonte Flannigan at the 8:44 mark. Hayes restored Phoenix’s then game-high seven-point advantage after he connected on a baby hook shot at the 5:28 mark. Ben Thomas’ men were yet again better than their Giants counterparts in the closing stages of the quarter, as they outscored their opponents 6-to-0 in the final two minutes of the first half. Cheshire’s lead hovered around the seven-point mark for the majority of the quarter as the two sides went back and forth, trading baskets in the second frame, however, the late scoring surge allowed the Nix to go into the locker room with a nine-point cushion.
The Nix stormed to a 5-0 start and pushed the lead into double digits in the opening minute of the second half, thanks to a couple of baskets from Ben Mockford and Jackson-Cartwright. The Giants rallied back and trimmed the deficit back to single digits after Ronalds Elksnis drained a shot from beyond the arc at the 5:05 mark. Jack Hudson’s tough lay-up make brought the visitors to within six points of the Nix with just over two minutes left in the penultimate quarter, however, Hayes proved to be the catalyst to another great Phoenix stretch as they outscored the Giants in the last two minutes of the quarter for the third time and went into the final stanza up 74-63.
PJC pushed Phoenix’s advantage to a then game-high 15 points at the 8:35 mark after he converted his spectacular and-one play. Just 20 seconds later, Disraeli Lufadeju extended the lead to 17 following a tough lay-up in transition. The Giants fought bravely to get back into the game, but the Nix proved to be too strong, as the Mancunians still trailed by double-digits at the mid-way point of the fourth quarter. The Nix controlled the tempo and played smart basketball for the remainder of the game which meant that they emerged victorious at the final buzzer, 99-88.
KEY TEAM STAT: 27 AST. The Nix shared the ball around at an elite level, as they assisted on most of their makes from the field. Six players found themselves in double-figure scoring as a result of the team’s unselfish play.