by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix succumbed to their second loss of the season at the hands of Gareth Murray’s new-look Glasgow Rocks.
Ben Thomas’ side travelled to Glasgow without their key players – Kahron Ross, Devin Mitchell, Sehill Mouliom, Jalen Hayes, Eric Hamilton and Pharroh Gordon – due to coronavirus implications.
Cheshire’s makeshift squad included only three first team regulars – Disraeli Lufadeju, Sol Rolls-Tyson and Mark Rangeley – and it really showed, as the Rocks looked the much better side from the tip until the final buzzer.
Marc Kwedi – the 23-year-old Frenchman – paved the way for the Scottish side as he scored a game-high 26 points on an incredibly efficient 70 percent shooting from the floor.
The tandem of Julius Van Sauers and Boban Jacdonmi took full advantage of Phoenix’s lack of size and physicality as they both tallied double-doubles and hauled down 24 of Glasgow’s 50 total rebounds.
Rolls-Tyson led all Phoenix scorers with 18 points on a respectable 54 percent efficiency from the floor, while Rangeley contributed with 13 points on an eye-popping 60 percent shooting from 3-point range.
The Nix opened the game with a three-point make from Max Jones inside the first 16 seconds, however they misfired on their next seven attempts from the floor and allowed their opponents to go on a sizzling 10-0 run. Rangeley stopped the drought at the 5:57 mark of the first quarter after he connected on a three-pointer of his own which trimmed Glasgow’s lead down to just four. The Rocks executed better during the mid-way point of the quarter and it was Jacdonmi’s put-back lay-up that put the hosts ahead by eight with just over two minutes left in the opening frame. The Nix looked like they were heading into the second quarter trailing by double-digits before Josh Houghton splashed home a buzzer-beating three to reduce the deficit to nine.
Van Sauers was the first player to get himself into double-digit scoring at the 8:48 mark after he converted a tough lay-up in the paint. Jonny Bunyan restored Glasgow’s original 12-point lead at the mid-way point of the quarter, after he connected on an attempt from downtown. Jacdonmi’s driving lay-up extended Glasgow’s lead to 14 with 4:34 remaining in the first half. Rangeley, Rolls-Tyson and Lufadeju all contributed with three-point makes during the second quarter, which helped the Nix stay within touching distance of their opponets. Murray’s team was led by Kwedi in the last three minutes, as he scored back-to-back three-pointers and helped the Rocks to close out the half slightly better than their opponents. Murray’s men went into the locker-room up 43-32.
The Nix began the second half in the worst possible way as they allowed Fraser Malcolm and Kwedi to engineer a scorching-hot 13-2 run inside the first three minutes of the third quarter, which increased Glasgow’s lead to 22. Rangeley scored Phoenix’s first points of the half and snapped Rocks’ run with a three-point make at the 5:37 mark before Lufadeju followed up with a neat and-one play to reduce the deficit to 16. Thomas’ team dominated the closing minutes of the penultimate quarter as they paired Glasgow’s silly mistakes and heavily-contested attempts with buckets from Xavier McIntosh and Rolls-Tyson, however they still found themselves down 48-68 heading into the final quarter.
The Rocks embarked on another impressive 9-0 run and kept the visitors scoreless until the 6:22 mark of the fourth period of play. The helpless, short-handed Nix found themselves down 53-80 with just five minutes left and never recovered from the 27-point deficit. Buckets from Lufadeju, Rolls-Tyson, Houghton and Jones proved futile, with the Rocks managing to hold serve on every occasion. The hosts ended the last two minutes of the game with a 6-3 stretch as they cruised to a 93-63 blow-out win in Murray’s debut as a player/coach.
KEY TEAM STAT: 17 Forced Turnovers. Cheshire pressured their opponents into careless passes and unnecessary dribbling all night long and accumulated just 14 turnovers to Glasgow’s 17, however they weren’t able to capitalize on their opponents’ errors as they added just nine points from turnovers.