by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered a tight loss against the Manchester Giants in the first game of the season.
The defeat marked Phoenix’s first misstep against the Giants in almost two years.
The Nix struggled to contain Manchester’s energy on the night. The Giants were also incredibly precise from the field, as they made 55% of their shots, including 44% from 3-point territory.
The Mancunians came into the game without any of their American imports, as they had all failed to receive FIBA clearance prior to tip-off. Sehill Mouliom missed the game due to the same reason, while Jalen Hayes, who usually enjoys a North West Derby, was absent because of a stomach bug.
All of Manchester’s starters found themselves in double-digit scoring but it was the tandem of Jordan Whelan and Alex Ouandie that ran the show for the Giants, as the pair combined for 47 points on 17-of-34 shooting.
Kahron Ross scored a game-high 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting and also hauled down 10 rebounds to give himself a double-double, while Disareli Lufadeju impressed with another energetic performance off the bench. Phoenix’s sixth-man tallied 19 points, six rebounds and three assists on the night.
Sol Rolls-Tyson, who made his return to competitive basketball after being sidelined for over a year, had a cool stat-line of 15 points (5-11 FG, 2-4 3PT) and six rebounds.
The visitors got off to a better start as they embarked on a 7-3 run in the opening three minutes of the game. The Giants extended their lead to double-digits at the 4:44 mark of the first quarter, before the Nix answered back with a 8-2 run of their own which brought the deficit back down to four with just over three minutes left in the quarter. Danny Byrne’s team closed the first stanza a little better than the Nix and went into the second period of play up 26-21. Ouandie scored eight points for the guests in the first quarter, while Lufadeju and Eric Hamilton led all Phoenix scorers with six apiece.
The Giants picked up right where they left off, as they started the first two minutes of the second quarter by outscoring their opponents 8-to-4. The Nix tried to cut into Manchester’s lead through a couple of nice baskets from Rolls-Tyson, however the visitors found a way to answer back on every occasion. Zach Powell gave the Giants their second double-digit lead of the game after he connected on an attempt from three-point land at the 4:03 mark. Ben Thomas’ men tried to level the score before the break, however they weren’t able to build a significant run for themselves and went into the locker room down 42-49.
The Giants recuperated their 10-point advantage after Ouandie and Jack Hudson engineered a rapid 5-2 burst to start the second half. Hudson’s three-point bucket at the 7:53 mark gave the visitors a then game-high 11-point lead, before Rolls-Tyson replied with a three of his own, to reduce the deficit back to single-digits. An emphatic dunk by Rolls-Tyson paired with a make from the free-throw line by Ross brought the hosts to within five points of their opponents. The Giants asserted their dominance during the mid-way point of the quarter and performed better in the last three minutes too, as they outscored their opponents 10-to-2 and earned themselves a 76-59 lead going into the final frame.
A Mark Rangeley three-pointer ignited a promising 10-2 run for the Nix at the start of the final quarter, however the guests replied quickly and reset the momentum back in their favour. The hosts lost the services of their marksman – Devin Mitchell – after the 6:44 mark, as Mitchell fouled out of the game. The Nix showed plenty of enthusiasm in the fourth quarter, even though they found themselves down by 15 points with just five minutes remaining. Max Jones and Ross stood out in the final five minutes of the game as Cheshire outscored Manchester 22-to-13, as they desperately tried to rescue a win. Unfortunately, Giants’ 15-point cushion at the half-way mark proved to be insurmountable and the visitors emerged victorious, 98-92.
KEY TEAM STAT: 17 Offensive Rebounds. Cheshire dominated their opponents on the glass, as they won the rebounding battle 43-33, however they failed to show the same effort in other departments which meant that they dropped their first game against the Manchester Giants since January 2019.