by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix lost the North West Derby after a poor fourth quarter allowed the Manchester Giants to pull away and secure a double-digit win at the University of Worcester Arena.
The Giants improved their league record to 4-3 and handed the Nix their fifth loss in the regular season.
The Mancunians grabbed 13 of the first 18 points in the final quarter and embarked on a 15-2 run which proved fatal for Ben Thomas’ side.
The Nix assisted on 18 of their 30 makes and forced Manchester into 11 turnovers, however they shot just 42% from the field, 13% from three-point distance and 60% at the line.
Jimbo Lull tallied a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double on 10-20 FG while Kahron Ross added a 13-point, 13-assist double-double which included five steals.
Sehill Mouliom (11) and Disraeli Lufadeju (10) also scored in double-digits for the Phoenix.
Mike McCall Jr made his 50th appearance in the BBL, however he was limited to just nine points in 26 minutes because of foul trouble.
The ‘visitors’ made 49% of his shots from the floor, but much like the Phoenix, they struggled to get into rhythm from deep, finishing with six made shots out of 25 attempted.
All Manchester players scored in double digits but it was the big-man Breaon Brady that led the way with 18 points (9-16 FG), to which he also added 17 rebounds and four assists.
Cheshire outscored the Giants by one point in the first two minutes of the quarter, thanks to baskets supplied by the front court duo Lull and Jalen Hayes. Lyle Hexom and Jordan Whelan replied quickly and gave the Giants their first lead of the night at the 7:33 mark. McCall, Lull and Ross all misfired as they tried to recuperate their advantage and in turn allowed Brady to extend Manchester’s lead to six at the 5:35 mark. A 9-2 run by the Giants meant that Danny Byrne’s team was up by double-digits at the 3:15 mark. Cheshire failed to trim the deficit back down to single digits before the end of the first, as the Mancunians closed the last three minutes with a 8-5 stretch and went into the second up, 27-13.
The Nix committed more turnovers than made baskets in the opening two minutes of the second frame, however their opponents failed to capitalise as the deficit remained at 14. Lull reduced Giants’ cushion down to 10 after a couple of makes over Brady, his direct opponent. Sloppy offense from Phoenix paired with some red-hot shooting from Manchester meant that Thomas’ men found themselves down by 14 yet again at the mid-way point of the quarter. This time round it was Cheshire’s turn to close the quarter with a good run and they did just that as they outscored their opponents 13-to-2 and went into the break down just 39-42, despite trailing by 14 with 2:42 left.
McCall tied the game in the first 20 seconds of the second half with a long-range three-pointer before Alex Ouandie answered back with an and-one play to put the Giants back into the ascendancy. Hexom’s uncontested three at the 7:29 mark extended Manchester’s lead to six. Mouliom, Ross and Lufadeju all contributed in a 6-0 Phoenix run which levelled the scores at 50 apiece with 5:16 left in the penultimate act. The Giants found themselves ahead by four with three minutes left in the quarter and although they managed to extend their advantage to six at the 1:51 mark, the Nix recovered well and closed the gap to three before the third quarter ended.
The final period of play got off to a hectic start as the two teams combined for 12 points inside the first two minutes. The Giants created a seven-point separation with as many minutes remaining after Brady connected on a turnaround shot over Lull. The visitors extend their lead to double-digits at the 6:23 mark. David Ulph scored Manchester’s 81st point of the night at the 4:20 mark, as the Giants found themselves up by 15. Byrne’s men then dropped down a gear as they tried to conserve their lead and they found themselves ahead by 11 with two minutes remaining. Mouliom cut Giants’ lead to nine at the 1:39 mark, however Thomas’ men failed to get any closer to their opponents as they dropped the game, 74-84.