by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix crashed out of the BBL Trophy following a 62-67 loss at the hands of the Glasgow Rocks.
Cheshire outscored the visitors by three in a scrappy opening quarter and went into the break with a double-digit lead after they held the Rocks to eight points in the second frame, whilst they added 15.
Gareth Murray’s side produced an improbable comeback in the second half and stunned the Nix by outscoring them 41-to-26 in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Glasgow sealed their place in the semi-final of the Trophy, secured their third away win of the season and snapped Phoenix’s 3-game win-streak in the process.
The Nix shot just 35% from the field and 22% from behind the arc and also lost the rebounding battle 40-to-42.
Christian Keeling led the way for the Rocks with a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double, while Ronald Delph (15) and Murray (11) both scored in double-figures. Delph finished with a joint game-high +18 plus/minus.
Jimbo Lull scored a game-high 20 points on 8-13 FG in his return to Phoenix’s rotation, while Kahron Ross finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five steals. Matthew Bryan-Amaning tallied seven points and six rebounds in just 12 minutes on the court.
The Nix took a while to get going as they missed their first three attempts from the field before Ross buried a triple from the wing at the 8:26 mark. Keeling answered back with a three-pointer of his own. Murray connected on a corner three at the 5-minute mark, but this time it was Lull who managed to reply with an and-one play on the next possession. The American center missed his complimentary free-throw and the Rocks found themselves up by six with 4:15 left in the first. The Nix, led by Lull, outscored the Rocks 12-to-2 in the last three minutes of the first quarter and went into the second frame up 21-18.
Both sides failed to score in the first minute and a half of the second quarter. Fraser Malcolm eventually stopped the collective drought with a lay-up at the 8:24 mark. David Mpondo put his team back in the ascendancy after he connected on a couple of free-throws at the 7:47 mark. Bryan-Amaning helped the Nix get back in front just two minutes later after he converted a free throw and a lay-up. Ross pushed Phoenix’s lead to five at the mid-way point of the quarter. It was Ross who danced past Glasgow’s defence and finished an easy lay-up at the 2:04 mark, increasing Phoenix’s lead to double-digits for the first time. The Nix outscored the Rocks 7-to-3 in the final three minutes of the half and went into the break up 36-26.
Delph scored the first points of the second half and reduced Phoenix’s lead to eight. He then added two more points with a slick fade-away jumper. Keeling capped off a 7-0 Glasgow run with a three-pointer from the wing. Lull ended Phoenix’s scoring drought at the 6:12 mark, with a crafty bank-shot. Cheshire’s advantage was reduced to one point, with just over four minutes remaining in the third. Murray’s tough lay-up levelled the scores at 41 points apiece, before Jonny Bunyan gave his side the lead, with a lay-up in transition at the 2:59 mark. Dutch forward Julius van Sauers increased Glasgow’s cushion to five with a strong and-one play, before a driving lay-up from Mike McCall Jr and a two-point bucket from Lull brought the Nix to within one point of their opponents. Delph beat the buzzer with a corner three and the visitors went into the fourth up 49-45.
Lull scored his 20th point of the night on the first possession of the final quarter, and the Nix trailed by two. Cheshire played suffocating defence and forced the Rocks into a 24-second violation. The Rocks then obtained a number of stops on defence while back-to-back triples were supplied by Keeling and Bunyan on the offensive end. Delph’s turnaround jumper gave the Rocks their first double-digit lead of the night at the 6:47 mark. Ross replied with a heavily contested three-pointer, however the Rocks still found themselves ahead by 11 with just five minutes on the clock. The Nix went on a 10-0 run thanks to baskets from Kyle Carey, McCall and Ross, and they found themselves trailing by just one point, with 38 seconds left. Keeling, who had made some big shots throughout the night, misfired on a mid-range jumper but Delph was there to clean up the mess as he grabbed the offensive rebound and put the Rocks up by three with 33 seconds remaining. Ross had the chance to tie the game, however his shot was off-target. Murray hauled in the defensive rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line.