by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered their seventh loss in the regular season after another sub-par shooting night allowed the Plymouth Raiders to obtain a six-point victory at the Plymouth Pavilions.
The Nix trailed by three points with 27 seconds left on the clock, however three makes from the stripe by Denzel Ubiaro and Ricky McGill paired with a missed three-pointer by Mike McCall Jr and a blocked lay-up attempt by Kahron Ross meant that the Raiders secured their fourth win in the regular season.
Jalen Hayes followed up his 31-point, 14-rebound performance against the Scorchers with game-high 24-point outing in Plymouth, however as a team the Nix shot just 29-of-68 (42%) from the floor and 2-of-17 (11%) from three-point distance.
The Raiders out-rebounded Ben Thomas’ side 44-to-33 and also made 38% of their attempts from beyond the arc (8-21 3PT).
Mike Morsell supplied the Raiders with 23 points on just 12 shots, while McGill, Michael Ochereobia and Will Neighbour all chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Plymouth obtained just two free-throws in the first half but then erupted for 28 attempts in the second act of the game.
Cheshire’s record now stands at 3-7.
The Raiders forced the Nix into a 24-second violation on the first play of the game and kept the visitors scoreless until the 7:39 mark when the Nix scored their first points of the night through Hayes. Both teams played stifling defence in opening minutes of the game but it was the Raiders who found themselves ahead by six at the mid-way point of the first frame. The hosts extended their lead to eight at the 3:57 mark through Morsell. The two sides traded buckets in equal measure in the final three minutes of the quarter, but it was the Raiders who went into the second period of play up, 18-12.
Hayes scored the first points of the second quarter, however the Raiders came right back with baskets from McGill and Ochereobia to put the hosts back up by eight. A trey-ball by Morsell paired with a miss from close-range by Jimbo Lull prompted coach Thomas into an emergency time-out, however the Raiders gained their first double-digit lead of the night on the next possession thanks to a three-pointer by Neighbour. The Nix then replied with a 6-0 stretch, with baskets coming from Kyle Carey and Lull. Ben Thomas’ men found themselves down by 11 with three minutes on the clock, but they outscored their opponents 4-to-2 in the final 180 seconds and went into the break down 30-39.
Cheshire opened the second half with a sizzling 4-0 burst which reduced Plymouth’s advantage to five in the first 45 seconds of the half. Carey knocked down Phoenix’s first three-pointer of the night at the 6:44 mark of the penultimate quarter, but the Nix found themselves down by six after an Ochereobia lay-up on the next possession. The Raiders reinstated their original nine-point cushion at the 4:43 mark. Ross knocked down a free-throw (technical foul) just before the 3-minute mark. The two sides scored six points apiece during the closing minutes of the third quarter which meant that the Nix went into the final act down 46-54.
A couple of free-throws from Ashley Hamilton paired with a lay-up in transition from McGill extended Plymouth’s lead to 12 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. Sehill Mouliom and Hayes replied with a quick 4-0 burst to bring the deficit back down to single digits. Mouliom then trimmed Plymouth’s lead to six at the 7:21 mark after he converted his and-one play. Morsell drilled a step-back three before McCall replied with a tough make in the paint. McGill drained a couple of free-throws, which meant that Cheshire trailed by nine with five minutes on the clock. McCall knocked down Phoenix’s second and final three-pointer of the night at the 4:57 mark. The hosts failed to find any real separation and so the Nix trailed by just five points with two minutes left in the contest. Hayes added four points in the dying minutes of the game, however his solo effort wasn’t enough to prevent a 76-82 loss on the road.