by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered their third loss in the regular season against the star-studded London Lions.
The Nix did not lead at any point of the night, but they showed a lot of heart, fought extremely hard, and also put on an entertaining performance for the Phoenix faithful who were in attendance for the first time since March.
Despite Cheshire’s valiant effort, the Londoners were just too strong for Ben Thomas’ side, who played without their starting small-forward, Pharroh Gordon, due to injury.
The Lions drained 18 threes on an eye-watering 52% conversion rate and also accumulated 29 assists on their 41 made baskets. Vince Macaulay’s team was led by Orlando Parker, who scored a joint game-high 25 points, while the backcourt of Justin Robinson and DeAndre Liggins also contributed with 20 points apiece.
All Phoenix starters scored in double-digits but it was Cheshire’s captain, Jalen Hayes, who led all scorers with 25 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) to which he also added nine rebounds and six assists.
Kahron Ross and Mike McCall Jr combined for 36 points (on 15-of-26 shooting) and 12 assists but the zero turnovers statistic was perhaps the most impressive.
Sol Rolls-Tyson added nine points on 100% shooting off the bench.
The Lions started off a little stronger as they opened the first two minutes of the game by outscoring the Nix 8-to-2. Cheshire did well to recover from London’s early scoring burst, as they brought the deficit down to three at the mid-way point of the quarter. The visitors then scored six unanswered points through Robinson, Parker, and Liggins to give themselves a 9-point cushion at the 3-minute mark. The two sides traded buckets until the last play when Ross knocked down a tough three-pointer to reduce the deficit to six heading into the second frame.
Kevin Ware opened the second quarter with an and-one play, which reinstated London’s original 9-point advantage. The guests pushed their lead to double digits following a three-point basket by Robinson at the 6:42 mark. Another triple, this time by Dirk Williams, paired with a couple of free-throws by Robinson extended Lions’ lead to a game-high 16 points with less than five minutes left in the first half. The Nix fought back bravely with the help of Jimbo Lull, Ross, and McCall however, they still found themselves down by double digits at the 3-minute mark. Hayes obtained a foul on a three-point attempt and converted all of his shots from the stripe to bring the Nix to within eight points of their opponents at the 2:42 mark. Cheshire then outscored the Lions by four before Robinson drained a three at the buzzer to send the Nix into the locker room down 47-54.
Hayes, Disraeli Lufadeju, and Ross combined for five points in the opening minute of the second half, however, the visitors replied through Parker and Liggins to keep the Nix at bay. The Londoners extended their lead back up to double digits at the 6:55 mark through their two-time BBL MVP before a couple of free throws from Lull brought London’s lead back down to single-digits at the half-way point of the quarter. Robinson knocked down London’s 14th three-pointer of the night at the 2:15 mark before Hayes replied with a trey-ball of his own just 14 seconds later. Cheshire were outscored by one point in the last two minutes of the third quarter and went into the final frame down 71-83.
The fourth quarter began with a make from 3-point distance by London’s Shane Walker, which was countered by a long two-pointer by Lufadeju. The Lions increased their lead back up 15 after Walker converted a lay-up at the 8:04 mark. Ross and Hayes then engineered a 10-1 Phoenix burst, which gave the Nix one final chance to rescue a win. Thomas’ team defended well and punished the Lions on the offensive end and they found themselves behind by just seven points with well over five minutes remaining in the fourth. Unfortunately, Thomas’ side failed to get any closer to the Lions. Liggins turned up the heat in the final few minutes and his teammates followed suit in upping the tempo of the game. The Lions outscored Cheshire 17-to-14 in the last five minutes and ran out victorious, 110-99.