by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix succumbed to a 20-point defeat against the resurgent Newcastle Eagles at the Vertu Motors Arena.
The Eagles claimed their first win of the season after a dominant performance against a Nix side missing their star point-guard, Teddy Okereafor.
Ben Thomas’ men actually started off pretty well as they got themselves on the board first, with a three-pointer from Levi Bradley just 14 seconds into the fixture. Kyle Carey pushed Phoenix’s lead to a game-high four points at the 6:46 mark of the first frame, however Cheshire’s good spell was short-lived, as the Eagles started firing on all cylinders. Ian MacLeod’s side went into the second quarter ahead by 13 as they outscored the visitors by 21-to-4 after Carey’s bucket.
The Eagles increased their advantage to 20 points with just three minutes remaining in the first period of play, however the Nix closed the half with a 9-2 run, which meant that Newcastle’s 13-point cushion after the first quarter remained intact at the interval.
The Nix played their best basketball in the penultimate quarter, as they chipped away at Newcastle’s lead, eventually reducing the deficit to six points at the 4:15 mark. Jules Dang-Akodo was particularly impressive in the third stanza, as the Eagles struggled to contain his zippy drives to the basket. Cheshire went into the final quarter with a glimmer of hope, as they only trailed the hosts by 55-to-63.
Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the home side exploded for 31 points in the final 10 minutes, their highest scoring quarter of the game. The Nix lagged behind with just 19 which meant that they became the first team to lose against the Eagles after dropping the game, 74-94.
The Nix struggled from the field, as they misfired on 44 out of 75 attempts, including 19 of 26 misses from deep while the Eagles shot 48% from the floor, 36% from three-point land and 76% from the free-throw line and also assisted on 31 of their 38 made baskets. The Geordies committed just nine turnovers while they forced the Nix into 16.
Newcastle’s veteran forward Darius Defoe paved the way with a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double while Rahmon Fletcher also tallied a 13-point, 14-assist double-double.
Michael Ochereobia (10 points & 15 rebounds) and Bradley (17 points & 10 rebounds) also posted double-doubles for the Nix.
Namon Wright led the team in scoring yet again, with 19 points as well as six rebounds, three assists and a steal.