by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered their fourth loss in the regular season at the hands of the Newcastle Eagles.
The Nix had the chance to triumph in their last home game of 2020, but with just 5.4 seconds to go and needing only one basket to secure the victory, the Nix botched their final play and allowed their opponents to run away with the win.
Ben Thomas was without the services of Sol Rolls-Tyson and Pharroh Gordon, who were both ruled out due to injury.
After a relatively slow start to the game, Cheshire’s best period came in the second frame as they outscored their opponents by 13, however, Thomas’s team lost the second half 38-to-42 and dropped the game in heartbreaking fashion.
The Eagles, who came into the game shooting just 25.3% from beyond the arc, managed to convert 40% of their attempts from deep, with Justin Gordon leading the way with a 22-point performance.
Jimbo Lull tallied a 28-point, 11-rebound double-double, but unfortunately, his efforts weren’t enough to secure the win. Kahron Ross also contributed with 16 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, however, Phoenix’s floor-general had an off-night shooting wise, as he only made 35.7% of his shots from the floor and 16.7% from 3-point distance.
The two teams traded buckets to start off the game, but it was a make from three-point land by Evan Maxwell that forced Ben Thomas into his first time-out at the 7:52 mark, as the Nix fell behind 4-to-7. The break actually aided the visitors as they embarked on a 7-0 run and earned themselves the first double-digit lead of the game. Cheshire trimmed the deficit back down to single digits at the 2:50 mark after they obtained a few stops and converted their opportunities on the offensive end. The guests outscored the hosts 5-to-2 in the closing minutes of the first quarter and went into the second up 27-17.
Lull, Sehill Mouliom and Mike McCall Jr scored Phoenix’s first five points in the second period however Newcastle’s guard, Eddie Matthew, replied with a 6-point surge of his own. A three-point bucket by Lull sparked an 11-0 run from the Phoenix, which was capped off with a couple of free-throws by Lull. Jalen Hayes added two more points from the stripe at the 3:18 mark, which brought the Nix to within one point of their opponents. Rahmon Fletcher stopped the bleeding on the next possession as his three-pointer marked Newcastle’s first basket in over four minutes of play. Cheshire drew level at 41-41 through Kahron Ross and eventually gained their first lead of the night with just 39 seconds left in the first half, following Lull’s make from three-point land. Newcastle tried to answer back but the Nix held on and went into the second half up 46-43.
The Nix were held scoreless in the first two minutes of the second half, however, the Eagles initially failed to capitalize on their defensive stops as the Nix remained in front before Cortez Edwards eventually put his side back in the ascendancy with a corner three at the 6:24 mark. Lull wasted no time as he answered right back with a trey-ball of his own on the next possession. McCall and Mouliom combined for the play of the game at the 3:41 mark, as the French forward threw down a thunderous alley-oop after McCall provided him with a sumptuous pass. Maxwell, Gordon, and Fletcher all helped the visitors gain control of the game around the half-way point of the quarter and their sustained runs paired with Cheshire’s poor offense allowed Ian MacLeod’s team to go into the final frame up 67-59.
Mouliom grabbed his own miss and converted a hook-shot to open the fourth quarter. Cheshire added four more points through Mouliom and Lull before the Eagles replied with free-throws from Matthew and Edwards to preserve their slim 5-point cushion. Cheshire found themselves trailing by six with five minutes left in the game. A strong passage of play on both ends by the Nix brought the deficit down to three with as many minutes remaining. A couple of free-throws from Hayes brought Newcastle’s lead down to just one point, and a bucket by Lull inside the agglomerated Newcastle paint tied the teams up at 83-points apiece with just over a minute left. Ross went to the line, however, he missed one of his attempts, while on the other end, Gordon swished both of his shots from the stripe and left the Nix with just 5.4 seconds to find an answer. Cheshire fumbled their last play and suffered an agonizing 84-85 loss against the Eagles.