by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix obtained their fourth consecutive win in the regular season against the star-studded London Lions.
The Nix knew that the head-to-head against the Lions was on the line so they battled hard from the get-go, however they found themselves down by two at the end of a very competitive and highly entertaining opening quarter. Ben Thomas’ men went into the break with a 16-point cushion after they crushed their opponents in the second frame by adding 30 points, whilst restricting the Lions to just 12 points on 14 shots and forcing them into seven turnovers. Phoenix’s lead ballooned to 21 at the 7:47 mark of the third stanza, however the Lions rallied against Phoenix’s momentum and eventually reduced the deficit to single-digits by the end of the quarter. The Nix took care of business in the final quarter as they matched the visitors blow-for-blow and sealed a statement win against one of the heavyweights in the BBL.
As a team, the Nix shot 47% from the field, 40% from deep and 92% from the line and also accumulated 17 assists to 10 turnovers.
On the other hand, the Lions converted 46% of their shots from the field and an unusually low 32% from behind the arc. The Londoners had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio as they accumulated 16 assists and coughed up 17 turnovers.
The Nix crashed the glass well and won the rebounding battle, 37-to-34.
Kahron Ross paved the way with a team-high 21 points on 42% shooting from deep, to which he also added five steals, three rebounds and two assists.
Jalen Hayes finished with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double to which he also added three assists and two steals.
Jimbo Lull contributed with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists on 50% shooting from the floor in just 20 minutes on the court.
Mike McCall Jr and Matthew Bryan-Amaning combined for 37 points, 11 rebounds and six assists off the bench.
Pharroh Gordon failed to score a single point, however his impact on the final result cannot be understated. He chipped in with some crucial, big-time plays in the key stretches of the game and finished with seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, zero turnovers and a game-high plus/minus of +18.
Lions guard and two-time BBL MVP Justin Robinson tallied a game-high 24 points on 70% shooting.
The visitors got off to a dazzling 7-0 start inside the first two minutes of the game, before Lull got Cheshire on the board at the 7:57 mark. Lull then reduced the deficit to three with 6:39 on the clock, however two makes from the stripe by Dirk Williams meant that Cheshire trailed by five at the mid-way point of the quarter. Bryan-Amaning put the Nix on the high-side for the first time at the 3:36 mark. Cheshire were then outscored by the Londoners 10-to-5 in the last three minutes of the quarter and went into the second frame down 21-23.
The Lions went on a sizzling 5-0 run in the first 45 seconds of the the second quarter. Hayes scored Phoenix’s first bucket in the second frame at the 7:55 mark. MBA followed up with an and-one play, however the hosts still trailed by two. McCall drilled a corner three which put the Nix back in the ascendancy at the 6:30 mark. Ross added a triple of his own before McCall drilled another trey, this time from the corner adjacent to Phoenix’s bench. The Nix had a seven-point cushion at the half-way point of the quarter. Ross extended Phoenix’s lead to double-digits with an inventive lay-up at the 2:41 mark. The Nix performed better in the closing minutes of the half as they outscored their opponents by six and went into the locker room up 51-35.
The Nix started the second half with a 4-0 burst which pushed their lead to 20 at the 8:12 mark. Ross drilled a flashy step-back trey over Robinson but Williams answered back with a three from the corner. DeAndre Liggins’ three-ball reduced Phoenix’s cushion to 13 at the 6:19 mark. Cheshire’s lead was trimmed down to single-digits with 4:54 left in the penultimate quarter. Robinson buried a three which reduced Phoenix’s advantage to five at the 3-minute mark. The Nix outscored the Lions by four in the final 180 seconds of the frame and went into the final quarter up 68-59.
Cheshire matched the Lions in scoring and kept their nine-point cushion intact until the 7-minute mark, when Williams converted a lay-up in transition and lowered Phoenix’s lead to seven. The Lions trailed by six with just five minutes left in the game. They managed to get to within four points of the home side by the time the clock reached the 3-minute mark. The Nix played smart basketball in the final three minutes of the night as they took good care of the ball and managed the clock well, whilst adding 11 points and limiting the Lions to eight, which meant that they eclipsed their opponents, 87-80.