by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix picked up their third win of the season against the Surrey Scorchers thanks to a superb fourth quarter comeback led by Mike McCall Jr.
The Nix went into the final act down by double-digits but Ben Thomas’ side triumphed by 34-to-19 in the fourth and defeated the Scorchers, tying the season series in the process.
McCall orchestrated the Phoenix comeback and steered his side to a much-needed win, as he scored 20 of his 28 total points in the last 10 minutes of the game. The Chicago-born guard shot 87 percent from the field, 90 percent from the line and was a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point territory on the night.
Jalen Hayes led the game in scoring with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, to which he also added 14 rebounds and a steal.
The Nix finally overcame their shooting woes, as they made 48 percent of their shots from the field and 38 percent from deep.
Thomas’ team scored 21 points off of Surrey’s 13 turnovers and also outscored the Scorchers in the paint 44-to-30.
Despite starting the game on the bench, Tony Hicks paved the way for the Scorchers with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Tayo Ogedengbe (15), Ryan Richards (14) and Martelle Mclemore (11) also scored in double-figures for the visitors.
Phoenix’s record now stands at 3-6.
Richards propelled the Scorchers into an early four-nothing lead after he made two tough shots over Jimbo Lull. It was Richards who extended Surrey’s lead to five at the 7-minute mark before Lull and Kahron Ross brought the deficit down to one just 50 seconds later. Cheshire gained their first lead of the night at the 5:05 mark, thanks to a basket from Hayes. Raftopoulos’ side outscored the hosts 10-to-8 during the last three minutes of the quarter and went into the second frame up, 23-21.
Hayes opened the second quarter with a tough make from mid-range to draw the Nix level with their opponents, before Ogedengbe replied with an and-one play to put the Scorchers back in the ascendancy. Hayes was the first player to get himself in double-digit scoring at the 7:56 mark. The two teams proceeded to trade buckets and exchange leads in quick succession, but it was the Scorchers who found themselves ahead by one at the mid-way point of the second quarter. Hayes gave the Nix a three-point separation at the 4:25 mark but Hicks answered back immediately with a make from deep. McCall and Ogedengbe then countered each other with makes from three-point land. The visitors executed better in the dying minutes of the half as they kept the hosts scoreless and went into the interval up 49-40.
Richards guided his side to their first double-digit lead of the night, after he converted an and-one play over Lull. The duo of Ross and Lull came right back with a 4-0 burst to bring the deficit down to eight at the 8:20 mark. Hayes scored his 21st point of the night at the 5:53 mark after he latched onto a loose ball inside the Surrey paint, however the Nix went back to trailing by double-digits at the half-way point of the quarter. The Scorchers led by 13 with 2:16 on the clock but the Nix managed to trim the deficit down to 10 before the end of the quarter.
Phoenix opened the final act with a 6-1 run through Hayes, McCall and Sehill Mouliom. Hayes had the opportunity to enter the 30-point club at the 7:27 mark but Phoenix’s captain missed both of his attempts from the line. A trey-ball from Kyle Carey paired with a difficult finish in the paint from Mouliom made it a two-possession game with 6:27 on the clock. Back-to-back triples from McCall made it a one-point game with just over four minutes remaining. McCall added his third consecutive three to give the Nix a slim two-point advantage before a long two from Mclemore tied the teams at 80 apiece with 3:05 on the clock. The Nix — led by the brilliant McCall — added 12 points in the final 180 seconds and kept the visitors to just seven, as they ran out victorious for the third time this season, 92-87.