by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix ceded the regular season head-to-head against the Worcester Wolves following a 76-83 loss at the University of Worcester Arena.
The loss marks Phoenix’s fourth straight misstep in the BBL Championship and worsens their record to 12-13, with just five games left to play in the regular season.
The Nix restricted the hosts to just two points inside the first five minutes of the contest, however Matt Newby’s team finished the first quarter strongly and went into the second up 18-16.
The Nix extended their lead to three points before the interval and managed to preserve their advantage going into the final frame.
Worcester played their best basketball in the fourth quarter, as they sealed a seven-point victory over the Nix after they outscored the guests 27-to-17.
The Wolves had an excellent shooting night, as they made 50% of their attempts from the field, 43% from three-point range and 91% from the charity stripe.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Jalen Hayes and Mike McCall Jr. provided the Nix with 16 points apiece, however the visitors missed 11 of 14 attempts from deep and turned the ball over on 16 occasions.
Kahron Ross totalled 15 points, three steals and a couple of assists in his first game since the 24th of March (vs. Leicester).
Maarten Bouwknecht supplied his side with a sublime 18-point, 10-assist double-double to which he also added seven rebounds and four steals.
Mike Parks Jr. added 16 points and five rebounds on 66% shooting from the floor.
Worcester’s bench outscored Phoenix’s 30-to-7 behind Henry Wilkins’ 12 points on 80% FG.
Phoenix got off to a torrid 8-0 start inside the first three minutes of the contest, before Parks scored Worcester’s first bucket of the night at the 7:11 mark. The hosts failed to score again until the 4:37 mark, when Josh McSwiggan split a pair of free-throws to reduce the deficit to seven. Elijah Burns threw down a powerful slam at the 3:37 mark however Bryan-Amaning replied with a pretty lay-up on the next possession. Jordan Williams trimmed Phoenix’s lead to five at the 3-minute mark of the opening frame. The hosts outscored the visitors by 11-to-4 in the final three minutes of the quarter and went into the second ahead, 18-16.
Hayes opened the second frame with a couple of makes from the free-throw line, but Micah Elan replied with a couple of tough baskets which put the Wolves ahead by four. Cheshire regained the advantage at the 7:12 mark after Hayes capped off a 7-2 run with a dunk in transition. Phoenix’s lead was short-lived, as Wilkins drilled a trey-ball just 30 seconds later. Ross tied the game with a lay-up at the 6:21 mark. The two sides were knotted at 29 points apiece, with three minutes remaining in the first half. The Nix managed to close the second quarter a little better than the Wolves and went into the locker-room up 35-32.
The two teams just traded blows in the first three minutes of the second act and the Nix still found themselves up by three at the 7-minute mark. MBA increased the cushion to five with a crafty lay-up but Worcester’s playmaker — Bouwknecht — answered back with a trey-ball, which cut the deficit down to two at the 6:21 mark. The Wolves found themselves back in the ascendancy at the 4:21 mark thanks to Parks, however they were outscored by four points in the last four minutes and went into the last quarter trailing the Nix, 56-59.
Pharroh Gordon knocked down a pair of free-throws to open the decisive quarter however Bouwknecht replied with a triple to cut Phoenix’s lead down to two, with nine minutes remaining. Parks sneaked into Cheshire’s paint and tied the game at 61 points apiece after he converted an easy lay-up. Wilkins buried a three-pointer at the 7:39 mark but Ross replied with a solo 4-0 run after coach Thomas called a time-out. Wilkins and Bouwknecht drained back-to-back triples and the hosts found themselves ahead by four with five minutes left on the clock. The Wolves earned their then-biggest lead of the night (six points) after Bouwknecht converted an euro-step at the 4:29 mark. The Nix battled hard in the dying minutes of the contest, however they failed to create a substantial run for themselves and eventually dropped the game, 76-83.