by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix dropped the first game of their double-header weekend against the Surrey Scorchers.
Cheshire struggled to put the ball in the basket, as they made just 40% of their shots from the field, 26% from 3-point distance and 64% from the free-throw line.
Phoenix’s biggest scoring run came in the fourth quarter but once again Ben Thomas’ side failed to come away with the win, due to their poor rebounding down the stretch.
Kahron Ross tallied a game-high 18 points, while Mike McCall Jr. and Jalen Hayes also chipped in with 16 apiece.
Jimbo Lull was limited to just eight points and seven rebounds as his playing time was heavily reduced by early foul trouble.
Surrey assisted on 22 of their 29 makes, and shot 46% from the field, 37% from 3-point territory and 77% from the line, with Caylin Raftopoulos and Lovell Cook paving the way with 12 points apiece.
The Nix got off to a scorching-hot 8-2 start inside the first couple of minutes of the game, thanks to baskets from Pharroh Gordon, McCall and Ross. Surrey replied with a 7-2 stretch that closed the gap to one point at the mid-way point of the first act. The hosts obtained their first lead of the night after Skyler White connected on a three-point attempt at the 2:36 mark. Raftopoulos added another triple before the start of the second frame and Ross’ two-pointer at the 1:15 mark was only enough to send the Nix into the second period trailing, 14-18.
The Scorchers began the second quarter with another impressive 8-2 burst, which gave them the first double-digit lead of the night at the 7:37 mark. Baskets by Hayes and McCall reduced Surrey’s advantage to five at the half-way point of the quarter, however, the hosts answered back once again and increased their advantage to nine with three minutes left in the first half. The Nix closed out the half with a cool 8-to-3 run, however, they still went into the interval down 34-38.
Thomas’ men made just one of their first 11 attempts from the field to start off the second half and amassed only three points in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Their opponents weren’t too prolific either as they’d only scored five points in the same time period, however, they still found themselves ahead by six at the 5-minute mark. The Scorchers looked to increase their cushion to double-digits in the closing three minutes of the penultimate quarter with baskets by White, Emondre Rickman and Raftopoulos, however, the Nix replied through Disraeli Lufadeju, Lull, Ross and Sehill Mouliom. Cheshire trailed 49-57, heading into the final frame.
Surrey obtained an and-one and forced the Nix into an eight-second violation in the first two possessions of the fourth quarter. Lull scored Phoenix’s first points in the fourth after a slick pick-and-roll play with McCall concluded with the Californian big-man knocking down a jumper from just inside the key. Lull’s bucket ignited a much needed 12-0 run by the Nix. The Scorchers struggled to penetrate Phoenix’s suffocating defence as Raftopoulos’ men were held to just three points in the first five minutes of the final quarter. Cheshire turned defence into offence as they found themselves down by just one point with 3:46 left in the game. The Scorchers benefitted from an emergency time-out called by Raftopoulos as they replied to Phoenix’s 12-0 run by scoring six unanswered points which gave them a comfortable seven-point cushion with 2:26 left to play. Hayes dunked all over Surrey’s captain Tayo Ogedengbe, McCall connected on a long two-point shot and Kahron drained a three-pointer in the closing minutes of the game, however, their admirable efforts were ultimately in vain, as the Nix failed to secure crucial rebounds down the stretch and in turn allowed Surrey to obtain a four-point (74-70) victory.