by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix recorded their second win in the BBL Cup Group Stage (North) against the Glasgow Rocks despite missing Head Coach Ben Thomas.
Cheshire’s head coach was ruled out prior to tip-off because of food poisoning, meaning that assistant coach Danny Byrne had to step in with Mike Burton acting as his assistant for the evening. The blow was softened ever so slightly by the arrival of highly-rated American center Noah Dickerson, however he was only on the court for nine minutes and 24 seconds, having only gone through a couple of practices with the team.
Phoenix’s excellent defence kept the Rocks quiet until the 6:35 mark of the first quarter, when Jordan Harris finally managed to get his team on the board with a lay-up. The Nix replied with three-point make from Levi Bradley and eventually gained their first double-digit lead of the night at the 4:37 mark when Bradley converted an and-one play to put the hosts ahead 15-to-5. The guests managed to narrowly out-score the Nix 10-to-9 in the final four minutes of the quarter but they still went into the second frame trailing 15-to-24.
With just over three minutes remaining in the first half, the Nix managed to increase their advantage to a game-high 15 points, however the Rocks closed the half with a sizzling 10-0 run in the final two minutes and went into the break behind by just five points, despite shooting just 35% from the floor and 23% from three-point land in the first half.
The Nix failed to regroup after the interval and the two teams found themselves knotted at 49 points apiece at the 6:44 mark of the penultimate quarter. Cheshire then gained some momentum thanks to an and-one play by Namon Wright and created a seven-point cushion for themselves at the half-way point of the frame. The Rocks threatened to tie/take the lead as they closed the gap to a single point on three different occasions, however the home side managed to suppress Glasgow’s offence when it mattered most and eventually reinstated their original five-point gap ahead of the start of the final frame.
The hosts took care of business in the fourth & final quarter as they slowed the pace down and played smart basketball to see out a much-needed bounce back victory against the Rocks. The visitors failed to reduce the deficit before the final buzzer and the Nix ran out triumphant 84-77.
Wright paved the way with 22 points and four rebounds on 8-of-17 shooting, while captain Teddy Okereafor also chipped in with 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a couple of steals. Bradley added 19 points and five boards while Kyle Carey played a pivotal role off the bench as he tallied eight points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a game-high +11 Plus/Minus.
As a team, the Nix shot 45% from the floor and 83% from the charity stripe and also assisted on 19 of their 33 makes.
The Scottish side did not have the lead at any point of the night. They missed 50 out of their 79 attempts from the field, including 24 missed three-pointers out of 32 attempted. The Rocks accumulated 15 offensive rebounds, however they only managed to add nine second chance points and actually lost the overall rebounding battle 42-to-45.
Jaycee Hillsman recorded an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double however he also finished with a game-low -13 Plus/Minus.