by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix succumbed to a crushing 62-88 loss in their final pre-season game against the Leicester Riders.
Ben Thomas’ side struggled to create good looks for themselves all night long, as they made just 19 of their 70 attempts from the floor. Disraeli Lufadeju’s 18 points (57.1% FG) weren’t enough to prevent the 26-point loss against a relentless Leicester side.
Admirably, Kahron Ross played the full 40 minutes and obtained 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.
The Harvard alum, Corey Johnson, led the way for the Riders with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. Mo Walker caused the Nix all sorts of problems on the night with his 12-point, 12-rebound performance.
The hosts took a while to get going as their opponents kept them scoreless in the opening two minutes, before Devin Mitchell finally put a point on the board after converting his attempt from the free-throw line. A three-point make by Sol Rolls-Tyson leveled the score at 4-4 before William Lee replied with a three of his own to put the Riders back into the ascendancy. Walker capped off a sizzling 9-0 run from the visitors after he converted his and-one play. Phoenix’s turnover woes and poor shot selection meant that they struggled to keep up with the Riders and found themselves down by double-digits with just over two minutes left in the first stanza. The Nix failed to score in the last two minutes of the quarter and went into the second down 8-22
Jalen Hayes opened the quarter with a silky hook-shot, however Johnson answered back immediately with a three-point bucket. Conner Washinghton’s corner three put the guests ahead by 20 at the 6:55 mark. The gap was widened to 24 before Ross finally stopped the bleeding after connecting on both of his attempts from the line. Geno Crandall’s tough make over Ross at the 2:15 mark increased Leicester’s points to 40, while Nix’s total remained stuck on just 14. Thomas’ men looked a little better in the closing minute and a half of the half, as they engineered a cool 6-2 run for themselves, however Zach Jackson’s buzzer-beating three wiped out all of Cheshire’s good work and sent the Riders into the locker-room up 47-20.
The Nix made good use of the break as they stabilised themselves and came out looking to prove a point. They began the third quarter with an emphatic dunk from Sehill Mouliom and a tough make in traffic by Ross. The Riders replied with baskets from Lee, Johnson and Darien Nelson-Henry but the game looked competitive at last. The Riders slowed the game down in order to preserve their comfortable 27-point cushion and even though the Nix refused to play into their hands, as they tried to force more plays in transition, Thomas’ men struggled to be efficient from the floor. Ross helped the Nix cut into Leicester’s overwhelming lead just before the end of the penultimate quarter, however the visitors still went into the fourth quarter with a substantial 61-35 lead.
The Riders kept up their intensity in the first two minutes of the final frame, as they embarked on another scorching-hot 10-2 run to give themselves a game-high 34-point advantage. Lufadeju’s acrobatic and-one play in transition stopped Leicester’s run at the 6:44 mark. Mitchell’s three-pointer at the 6:30 mark sparked an 8-1 run for the Phoenix, however they still trailed by 27 with just five minutes left in the game. Unfortunatley, the Nix failed to perform a miracle in the closing minutes of the game which in turn meant that dropped their last pre-season test, 62-88.
KEY TEAM STAT: 17 forced TO. The Nix forced their opponents into 17 turnovers on the night, however they failed to capitalize on those errors as they only accumulated 11 points from turnovers.