by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix lost the head-to-head against the London Lions as they succumbed to a 26-point loss at the Copper Box Arena.
The hosts earned themselves a 17-point cushion at the break, as they torched the Nix from deep and restricted the visitors to just 30 points in the first 20 minutes.
Ben Thomas’ team performed better in the third frame, as they outscored the Lions by 22-to-13, however they suffered a total collapse in the fourth as they scored just nine points whilst allowing the Londoners to add 27 points.
The final result marks Phoenix’s 14th loss in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Lions picked up their 17th win and improved their regular season record to 17-7.
The Nix struggled from deep yet again, as they missed 23 of 27 attempts from behind the arc. The visitors only made 58% (7-12 FT) of their attempts from the line and 36% (25-68 FG) from the field in their lone trip to the capital.
The Lions were much more efficient, as they made 48% (33-68 FG) of their attempts from the field, 50% (13-26) from deep and 88% (8-9 FT) from the line.
Dirk Williams finished with 17 points (game-high) and seven rebounds, while Orlando Parker (14), Josh Ward-Hibbert (13), DeAndre Liggins (10) and Jules Dang Akodo (10) also contributed with double-digit points.
Kahron Ross and Jimbo Lull scored 14 points apiece for the Nix. Kyle Carey (13) was the only other Phoenix player who finished in double-figure scoring.
Williams and Shane Walker canned in a couple of triples inside the opening minute of the game before Carey got the visitors on the board with a tough make in the paint. Justin Robinson added London’s third triple of the night at the 7:41 mark before Williams increased the lead to double-digits with his second three-ball of the contest at the 7:18 mark. The gap between the two teams widened to 13 points by the time the clock reached the five-minute mark. Ross scored Cheshire’s first bucket in almost four minutes at the 3:43 mark then assisted Lull’s trey-ball which reduced the deficit to 11, at the 3-minute mark. The Nix trimmed London’s lead down to single digits after they outscored the Lions 6-to-2 in the final 180 seconds of the opening quarter.
The Lions regained their double-digit advantage following a 6-2 burst of their own inside the first two minutes of the second frame. London’s lead ballooned to 16 at the 6:46 mark after Liggins and Kingsley Okoroh combined for five points. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Jalen Hayes answered back with a 5-0 run, however it took the Lions just one minute to regain their 16-point advantage thanks to baskets from Dang Akodo and Parker. The Lions closed the first half well and increased their cushion to 17 by the time the half-time buzzer sounded.
The Nix opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run and closed the gap to 10 points at the 7:49 mark. The Nix tried to make it a single-digit game, however the Lions had other ideas, as they scored through Robinson and Parker to make it a 15-point game. Ross replied to Parker’s trey with a long two-pointer and London’s lead stood at 13 points at the half-way point of the quarter. Lull converted a strong and-one play before Liggins knocked down a pair of free-throws at the 3:21 mark. Ross hit a wide-open triple on the next possession and reduced London’s lead to single-digits, with just three minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter. The Nix outscored their opponents by one point in the last three minutes and went into the final quarter trailing the Londoners, 52-60.
The Lions failed to score until the 8:40 mark of the fourth quarter, while the Nix made it a five-point game through Sol Rolls-Tyson and Lull. Ward-Hibbert connected on a three-point attempt and then followed up with a successful and-one play, which eased the pressure off of the hosts as Vince Macaulay’s men found themselves ahead by double-digits yet again, at the 8:13 mark. Ward-Hibbert connected on his second three-pointer of the quarter and extended his team’s lead to 14, with under seven minutes remaining. The Lions played stifling defence and converted their opportunities on the offensive end as they pushed their cushion to 24 with less than five minutes on the clock. Okoroh was called for his second unsportsmanlike foul of the evening at the 3:40 mark, however his absence in the last few minutes of the contest did not affect the final result at all, as the Lions cruised to a 87-61 victory over the Nix.