by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered their first defeat in the regular season against the Bristol Flyers.
The Nix came into the fixture full of confidence following their double-digit win against the Sheffield Sharks but unfortunately suffered a heartbreaking loss after a nail-biting overtime game against the Flyers at the EPSV.
Cheshire looked like the better side for the majority of the night, however, they failed to build the required momentum to break away from the Flyers, and even after finding themselves up by double-digits with just three minutes left to play, the Nix capitulated and allowed the Flyers to send the game into overtime.
Bristol executed better in OT and came away with a huge win on the road, behind Marcus Delpeche’s 22-point, 13 rebound double-double.
Eric Lockett scored 13 points, hauled down 12 rebounds, and was just one assist shy of a triple-double.
Cheshire lost the battle of the boards, 36-to-56, and also only accumulated seven points from the 16 turnovers they forced their opponents into.
Phoenix is the first team to score 70 or more against the Flyers this season, however, Jimbo Lull’s team-high 17 points weren’t enough to prevent the agonizing overtime loss.
The Nix scored first through Lull but it was the Flyers who produced the first highlight of the game through a Delpeche alley-oop throwdown at the 8:59 mark. Neither team found any significant separation until the half-way point of the opening quarter, as the sides just traded blows to start off the game. Zach Copeland converted an and-one play at the 2:30 mark to give his team a slim two-point advantage, but Kahron Ross replied with a corner three on the next possession, to put the Nix back into the ascendancy. The two teams continued to trade baskets for the remainder of the quarter, with the Nix edging their opponents, 23-19, heading into the second stanza.
Sol Rolls-Tyson widened Phoenix’s lead to six with a shot-clock-beating two-pointer at the start of the second frame. A seven-point surge from Delpeche was countered by lay-ups from Jalen Hayes and Sehill Mouliom but Phoenix’s lead was still trimmed back down to a single possession at the 7:05 mark. Cheshire tried to reinstate their six-point lead, however, their opponents were able to hold serve on every occasion and the gap remained at three until the 2:55 mark when Disraeli Lufadeju knocked down a trey-ball whilst obtaining the foul call in the process. Unfortunately, the guard missed his complimentary free-throw and the Nix went scoreless for the remainder of the half, whilst the visitors added two points through Daniel Edozie. After two hotly contested quarters, Cheshire went into the break leading 36-32.
Phoenix opened the second half well, as they embarked on a 7-3 run in the first three minutes of the third quarter before the Flyers replied through Delpeche and Lockett to reduce their deficit back down to three, with just over four minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter. Lockett’s two-pointer at the 3:06 mark brought Bristol to within a single point of Cheshire before Mouliom replied with an acrobatic lay-up in transition. The guests outscored the hosts 5-to-2 during the last two minutes of the quarter meaning that the two sides couldn’t be separated after the first 30 minutes as they both went into the fourth quarter with 49 points apiece.
The Nix failed to score in the first 100 seconds of the final frame and found themselves trailing by six with seven minutes left in the game. Pharroh Gordon and Mike McCall Jr knocked down back-to-back threes to make it an even game at the mid-way point of the quarter. It was a Gordon three paired with a vicious dunk by Hayes that ignited an effervescent 16-0 run by the Phoenix in the space of just three minutes. After forcing Copeland into an unsportsmanlike foul, Phoenix’s floor general – Ross – converted his free-throw and then scored on the extra possession, capping off Phoenix’s 16-0 stretch at the 3:27 mark. The game looked to be in the books, but the Flyers evidently had other ideas as they engineered a miraculous 14-4 run in the last three minutes and forced the game into overtime.
McCall opened the extra period with a two-point bucket before the Flyers answered back with a Delpeche free-throw and Lockett lay-up in transition. A slick finish in the paint by Hayes leveled the scores at 80-80, with just 1:35 left in the game. Lull split a pair of free-throws at the 1:01 mark and from that point onwards, Cheshire failed to score again while the visitors added four points through Delpeche and Copeland, subsequently sealing their first win in the BBL Championship, 84-81, after a thrilling 45 minutes at the EPSV.
KEY TEAM STAT: 16 Forced Turnovers. The Nix did a good job of forcing their opponents into making silly mistakes, however, they failed to capitalize on those mistakes as they only accumulated seven points off of 16 turnovers.