by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix survived a late fourth-quarter scare and defeated the Bristol Flyers 71-69 at the SGS College Arena thanks to a sensational buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mike McCall Jr.
The Nix won the first three quarters and went into the final frame with a comfortable 15-point cushion, however the Flyers gained their first lead of the night with just 4.1 seconds left in the game after Ben Mockford capped off a 25-to-7 run with a deep three-pointer.
McCall, who had a game-leading 20 points at the time, stepped up and took the final shot of the game. The American guard received the ball on the wing and splashed home a well-contested, double-clutch three-pointer right in Mockford’s face, just as the final buzzer sounded.
McCall finished with 23 points on 55% shooting from the floor and 42% from behind the arc.
Jalen Hayes added 15 points and six rebounds, while Pharroh Gordon had another good all-around game, as he supplied his side with 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Kahron Ross had a quiet night offensively, as he accumulated just eight points, however he contributed with six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Ross also finished with a game-high +10 plus/minus.
Mockford led all Bristol scorers with 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from deep, while Marcus Delpeche tallied a 13-point, 19-rebound double-double, however their efforts weren’t enough as the Nix levelled the season series and leapfrogged the Flyers in the BBL Championship table in the process.
The Nix played good defence to start off the game, as they forced Delpeche into a shot-clock violation and Mockford into a miss from mid-range, while they added five points through Hayes and Kyle Carey. Delpeche and Josh Wilcher answered back with a 4-0 run before Hayes forced coach Kapoulas into his first time-out of the night at the 5:49 mark, after he drilled a three-pointer which put Cheshire up by six. Bristol failed to get into any sort of rhythm after the time-out and they found themselves behind by eight at the 3-minute mark. The Nix earned their first double-digit lead of the night at the 1:38 mark, thanks to a lay-up from Matthew Bryan-Amaning, however the Flyers managed to cut the lead back down to eight by the end of the opening frame.
The Nix were held to just one point in the first two minutes of the second stanza, however the hosts failed to capitalise as they added just two points in that time-frame, meaning that Cheshire still had a comfortable seven-point lead with 7:30 on the clock. MBA had the chance to extend Cheshire’s advantage back up to double-figures, however he failed to convert his free-throw following an and-one play. Justin Baker was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Hayes. Phoenix’s captain split his free-throws. McCall increased Phoenix’s lead to 11 at the mid-way point of the frame. The scorching-hot McCall then drained back-to-back triples and outscored the Flyers all by himself in the last three minutes of the half. The Nix went into the break up, 38-24.
Gordon opened the third quarter with a three-point bucket, which extended Cheshire’s lead to 17. The visitors kept the hosts scoreless until the 6:54 mark, while they added two more points through a spectacular sledgehammer dunk by Sehill Mouliom. Cheshire’s efforts on both ends of the floor did not go unnoticed, as the scoreboard indicated a 24-point advantage for Ben Thomas’ men at the half-way point of the penultimate quarter. The Flyers engineered a 4-0 burst for themselves, however McCall managed to end their short-lived run with a corner three. Teddy Okereafor converted an easy lay-up in transition and the Flyers found themselves behind by 20 with three minutes left in the third. Mockford then connected on his first three-pointer of the night at the 2:41 mark, forcing the Nix into a time-out, as their lead was reduced to 17. Okereafor scored two more points from the charity stripe before Baker added a three-pointer from the wing, which trimmed Phoenix’s lead to 13. Mouliom finally stopped the bleeding with a tough lay-up at the 57-second mark and the Nix went into the final quarter up 57-42.
Delpeche opened the fourth with an and-one play, however he failed to convert his complimentary free-throw. Gordon replied with a lay-up, which restored Phoenix’s 15-point cushion. Mockford’s solo 5-0 run reduced Phoenix’s advantage to 10 with seven minutes on the clock. The Nix then saw their double-digit lead evaporate after Wilcher and Mockford knocked down back-to-back triples. Baker’s floater trimmed Phoenix’s lead to four at the 4:30 mark. Delpeche tied the game at 66 points apiece with just over one minute remaining. Mouliom was fouled by Delpeche and went to the line to shoot two, however he missed both attempts and the score remained unchanged, with 56 seconds left to play. McCall stole the ball from Delpeche and converted a lay-up to put the Nix up by two with 13 seconds on the clock, before Mockford made his fifth three-pointer of the night, which helped the Flyers obtain their first lead of the game, with just 4.1 seconds left in the contest. McCall came up with the biggest play of the night on the final possession, as he drilled a cold-blooded, double-clutch three-pointer over Mockford, to win the game for the Phoenix, 71-69.