by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix obtained a 9-point victory in their mid-week battle against the Worcester Wolves.
The Nix started the game in the best way possible, as they led by double-digits at the end of the first quarter, however the visitors did well to close the gap to four by the time the half-time buzzer sounded. The Nix failed to shake off their third quarter woes as they were outscored by three, but they delivered when it mattered most, as they won the fourth frame by a healthy 8-point margin and clinched their sixth win in the regular season.
The Nix had an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio, as they racked up 24 dimes and just five turnovers. They also restricted their opponents to just six made baskets from three-point territory, out of 17 attempted.
Jordan Williams (19 points, nine rebounds, four assists) and Mike Parks Jr. (15 points, 13 rebounds, 7-8 FG) stepped up for the visitors, who came into the contest without Josh McSwiggan, Henry Wilkins and K.J. Lawson, however their efforts proved futile, as the Wolves suffered their seventh loss of the season.
Kahron Ross finished with 19 points, six assists and zero turnovers on 7-of-10 shooting while Jimbo Lull tallied 18 points, eight rebounds and a game-high +14 plus/minus on 9-of-13 shooting in his first start since January 20th.
Phoenix’s captain, Jalen Hayes, stuffed the stat-sheet with 15 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Both teams got off to a slow start as the first five shots of the game were all off-target. Lull and Hayes scored the first four points for Cheshire, before Brandon Anderson got his side on the board with a make from mid-range. Lamarr Kimble drilled Worcester’s first three-pointer of the night at the 6:29 mark, however Matt Newby’s men trailed by five at the half-way point of the opening frame. Hayes extended Phoenix’s lead to double-digits at the 3:28 mark. The two sides traded buckets in equal measure in the final three minutes of the quarter, which meant that Cheshire went into the second quarter up 25-15
Micah Elan opened the second frame with a three-point bucket, cutting Phoenix’s lead down to seven. Elan added another basket over Kyle Carey and reduced Phoenix’s advantage to five at the 8:07 mark. Sehill Mouliom replied with the first highlight play of the game, as Mike McCall’s inch-perfect pass found the Frenchman in position for a flashy reverse jam. Matthew Bryan-Amaning restored Phoenix’s original 10-point lead with a dunk in transition at the 6:12 mark. Cheshire’s held an 11-point advantage with three minutes left, however the Wolves performed better in the last 180 seconds as they outscored Cheshire 9-to-2 and went into the interval down by just four points, 37-41.
Pharroh Gordon converted a crafty lay-up to start off the third period of play, but it was Maarten Bouwknecht who replied straight away with a swish from mid-range. Carey scored his first basket of the night at the 7-minute mark and then followed it up with a lay-up on the fast break to put his team up by eight. Williams countered with consecutive baskets in the paint and Phoenix’s cushion was down to four yet again, at the mid-way point of the penultimate quarter. The Wolves were presented with ample opportunities to take their first lead of the night, but they failed to capitalise on Phoenix’s insipid offence until the 1:27 mark, when Williams finally put his side in the ascendancy after he converted a tough hook-shot over MBA. Worcester’s advantage on the scoreboard was short-lived as Lull answered back with a hook-shot of his own on the next possession and the Nix went into the final quarter up 57-56.
Anderson scored the first basket of the fourth quarter, even though he was only presented with one second to get his shot off. McCall replied with a solo 5-0 run and the Nix found themselves ahead by four with just over seven minutes remaining. Baskets from Lull and Ross put the Nix up by nine at the 5:43 mark. Lull’s long two-pointer pushed Phoenix’s advantage to double-digits at the 5:19 mark. From that point onwards, the Nix managed the clock well and dictated the tempo of the game. Despite getting outscored 9-to-7 in the closing minutes of the contest, Ben Thomas’ men triumphed 77-68 and tied up the season series against the Wolves in the process.