by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss against the Manchester Giants in a thrilling North West Derby at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village.
The two teams delighted the fans in attendance with a high-octane opening quarter as they went pretty much blow-for-blow, with the Nix slightly edging the visitors, 19-to-17 at the end of the first frame.
The Nix gained their biggest lead of the night at the 7:21 mark of the second stanza, as Michael Ochereobia finished off a 7-0 run with a hook-shot, which pushed the Nix ahead by 28-to-21. Ben Thomas’ men then went through a 5-minute scoring drought which allowed the Giants to close the gap back down to a single possession. The Nix looked set to go into the locker-room with a five-point cushion before Giants guard Josh Steel dampened the mood with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
The Giants opened the penultimate quarter with a quick-fire 8-0 run which prompted coach Thomas into an emergency time-out at the 7:17 mark. Josh McSwiggan and Ochereobia collaborated for a 7-0 response from the hosts, however Dan Clark managed to put his team back up by two after he drained a three-pointer at the 4:45 mark. The Mancunians preserved their slim two-point advantage for the rest of the quarter and went into the final frame up 47-45.
Lloyd Gardner’s side extended their lead to five after the first minute, however the Nix tied the game at 50 points apiece just 45 seconds later thanks to baskets from Namon Wright and Teddy Okereafor. With less than two minutes left to play Steel sliced through Phoenix’s defence and finished an easy lay-up, before Cheshire guard Jules Dang-Akodo sent the game into overtime with a tough make in the paint over Jack Hudson.
The Giants struck first in the extra period, with a make from the charity stripe by Clark and followed up by adding a further seven points before the Nix scored their first basket in OT at the 1:53 mark. The Nix battled hard to regain the momentum but a dagger three-pointer from Steel with just 35 seconds remaining erased any hope of a Derby Day win for the Phoenix as the visitors emerged victorious, 78-to-72.
The Nix struggled to make shots against the Giants, as they finished the game with 41% shooting from the floor and 26% from three-point land. Cheshire edged the rebounding battle 39-to-37, but were once again careless in possession as they committed 20 turnovers.
On the other hand, the visitors made 47% of their shots from the field and three-point range, whilst also out-assisting the Nix 19-to-12. Manchester’s five-man bench unit outscored Cheshire’s bench duo of Dang-Akodo and Levi Bradley by 27-to-16.
Clark led the way for the Giants with a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double, which also included four assists, three steals and a block. Despite accumulating a game-high eight turnovers, Wright led all Nix scorers with 15 points on nine shots.
Ochereobia followed up his 18-point & 19-rebound double-double against Sheffield with another solid outing in which he racked up 14 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. McSwiggan added 13 points on an incredibly efficient 5-of-6 shooting performance and also contributed with a couple of rebounds and a steal.