by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix dropped their third game in the BBL Cup against the Manchester Giants.
The short-handed Nix travelled to Manchester without four of their key players: Kahron Ross, Sehill Mouliom, Pharroh Gordon and Eric Hamilton.
However, Ben Thomas received a tiny boost prior to the game as new recruit (and former Giants guard) Mike McCall Jr. received his clearance from FIBA while star forward Jalen Hayes was also cleared to return on the court for the first time since November 1st (pre-season vs. Leicester Riders).
Thomas’ second-string side turned the ball over 18 times, lost the rebounding battle 36-to-47, and also allowed the Giants to shoot 54% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line. The Giants also made the most of Phoenix’s lack of inside presence as they racked up 44 points in the paint.
The Giants won the first derby of the season 98-92 without any of their American imports, but this time round Breaon Brady, Lyle Hexom and Sam Cassell Jr. all suited up for their debuts as Manchester players.
The American trio combined for 63 of Manchester’s 106 total points as they connected on 60% of their attempts from the field.
Cassell Jr – the son of 3-time NBA champion Sam Cassell – accumulated 25 points (10-17 FG, 5-7 3PT), eight rebounds, three steals and two assists in just over 29 minutes of play.
Hexom tallied a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double and also contributed with three assists and two blocks.
Brady scored 16 points, pulled down six rebounds and also added two steals and a block whilst shooting a game high 72% from the field.
Disraeli Lufadeju scored a Phoenix-high 21 points, while Sol Rolls-Tyson recorded a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.
McCall Jr. impressed with his playmaking ability, however, he struggled to put the ball in the basket, as he scored just 11 points on a deplorable 4-of-17 conversion rate.
Phoenix’s 42-point loss now stands as the club’s heaviest ever defeat against their arch-rivals.
The Giants opened the fixture with a 7-0 run inside the first three minutes, as the Nix endured a sluggish start on offense, misfiring on their first five attempts from the field. Hayes eventually scored Phoenix’s first points of the night at the 6:51 mark. Manchester asserted their superiority on the boards early and it was the 6-foot-8 Brady that grabbed his own miss and converted the second-chance opportunity to give the Giants their first double-digit lead at the half-way point of the opening frame. A steal paired with a nice finish in transition by Cassell Jr. extended Manchester’s advantage to 15 with just over three minutes left in the quarter. The Giants closed the final three minutes with a 12-5 stretch and went into the second quarter up 33-9.
A three-pointer paired with an emphatic dunk by Hexom got the Giants off to a 5-0 start in the second stanza. The run soon ballooned to 10-0 thanks to buckets by Alex Ouandie and Brady. Once again, Hayes was the one who snapped Manchester’s run with a lay-up at the 6:46 mark. Jordan Whelan scored Manchester’s 50th point at the 4:53 mark, while the inadequately equipped Nix lagged behind with just 15. Cheshire held their opponents to just one point in the final three minutes of the first half, however, the Nix managed to score just two baskets in the same time frame which meant that they went into the locker-room trailing the Giants, 23-57.
Cassell Jr opened the second half with a long two-pointer before McCall Jr replied with a tough lay-up in the packed Manchester paint. The two guards traded buckets again shortly after as McCall Jr answered Casell Jr’s make from three-point land with a trey of his own. Cheshire found a little bit of rhythm and trimmed the deficit to 27 at the mid-way point of the penultimate quarter, forcing the Giants into an emergency time-out. The Giants benefited from the break as they seized control of the game once again, with former Houston Cougars big-man, Brady, punishing Phoenix’s lack of inside presence by scoring six points in just two minutes. Mark Rangeley and Lufadeju sparked a late 5-0 burst which sent the Nix into the final frame down 51-75.
The Giants looked content with their 24-point lead as the two teams just exchanged blows in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Danny Byrne’s men, led by Cassell Jr, then decided to inflict even more pain on the Nix, as they unleashed a merciless 10-0 avalanche. Josh Houghton eventually put a stop to Giants’ arrogance with a silky-smooth three-point bucket at the 6:15 mark. The hosts outscored the guests 18-to-6 during the last five minutes of the derby and triumphed for the second time this season, 106-64.
KEY TEAM STAT: 87% FT. Phoenix only missed two of their 16 shots from the charity stripe.