by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix picked up their 11th win in the BBL Championship and claimed the head-to-head over the Bristol Flyers with an 81-75 victory at the SGS College Arena.
The Nix kept the hosts quiet in the first two minutes of the game, while they added eight points through Kyle Carey, Mike McCall Jr and Jalen Hayes. Bristol countered well and trimmed Phoenix’s lead to one by the end of the first quarter.
The Flyers performed slightly better than their opponents in the second period of play as they outscored the Nix by 28-to-24. The two sides were tied at 43 points apiece before Eric Lockett beat the half-time buzzer with a long range three-pointer.
The Nix went into the final quarter up 60-to-57 after they added 17 points whilst holding their opponents to 11 in the third act of the game.
Cheshire’s lead ballooned to double-digits for the first time at the 4:29 mark of the fourth quarter, thanks to a dazzling 14-3 run, however the Flyers managed to close the gap to four, with just over a minute remaining. Kahron Ross and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added four points, while the hard-nosed Carey came up with a couple of crucial defensive plays in the last 60 seconds of the contest. Carey sealed the victory for the Phoenix after he blocked Justin Baker’s corner-three and then drew a charge on Teddy Okereafor’s drive to the basket.
The Nix made 50% of their attempts from the field and 52% from behind the arc. They restricted the Flyers to 39% shooting from the floor and 31% from deep. Cheshire converted 15 of 18 shots from the free-throw line, while the Flyers managed to knock down eight of their 11 freebies.
Ross added another colossal performance to his BBL résumé, as he poured in 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting alongside five rebounds, five assists and a steal.
McCall chipped in with 19 points, three steals, two assists and was perfect from the field (5-5 FG), three-point range (3-3 3PT) and the free-throw line (6-6 FT).
Carey shot 66% from deep and finished with 11 points, five rebounds and a block.
MBA (12) and Josh Houghton (6) supplied the Nix with 18 priceless points off the bench.
Marcus Delpeche notched his third straight double-double against the Nix (17 points, 10 rebounds on 70% FG) while Lockett tallied a team-high 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
Cheshire opened the contest with a couple of three-pointers from Carey and McCall. Hayes increased Cheshire’s run to 8-0 before Daniel Edozie got his team on the scoreboard with a couple of free-throws at the 7:41 mark. Baker was called for an unsportsmanlike foul at the 6:26 mark and McCall converted both shots from the line to give the Nix a nine-point cushion. Cheshire’s lead was reduced to five at the mid-way point of the quarter, thanks to baskets from Lockett and Edozie. An easy lay-up for Delpeche paired with a trey-ball from Okereafor meant the two teams were tied at 16 points apiece at the 2:26 mark. The hosts took their first lead of the game with just under 90 seconds left in the frame, however MBA banked in a three-pointer to send the Nix into the second up, 19-18.
Josh Rogers and Josh Wilcher nailed a couple of three-pointers to nudge Bristol back in front inside the first three minutes of the second quarter. Houghton replied with a three-ball of his own and the teams were tied once again at the half-way point of the quarter, after MBA converted an inventive and-one play. Lockett closed the first half with a deep buzzer-beating three, which helped the Flyers obtain a three-point separation at the break.
McCall and Ross drilled back-to-back triples to open the second half and put the Nix back in the ascendancy at the 8:37 mark of the third quarter. The Flyers replied with a 5-0 burst and regained the lead just two minutes later, however the Nix landed another three-point punch, through an and-one play from Carey. Ross finished a tough lay-up in transition and pushed Phoenix’s lead to three, at the 4:59 mark. Lockett fouled McCall on a three-point attempt at the 4:06 mark. Bristol’s guard was penalised with a technical foul after he complained about the decision. McCall went a perfect 4-of-4 from the line and Cheshire’s lead stood at seven, with four minutes left in the third quarter. The Nix were outscored by 6-to-2 in the closing 180 seconds of the frame, however they still went into the final quarter up, 60-57.
Cheshire went on a 14-3 run thanks to an avalanche of three-point buckets and found themselves up by 14, with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Bristol threw everything they had at the guests in the dying minutes of the contest however it was a case of ‘too little, too late’ from Andreas Kapoulas’ men. Their efforts proved futile as Phoenix triumphed, 81-75.