by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix secured their second seven-point victory over the Sheffield Sharks in the BBL Cup Group Stage.
The win marked Cheshire’s seventh consecutive triumph (all competitions) over their long-standing rivals and improved their record to 3-2 after five games in the ‘North’ group of the Cup, while the Sharks dropped to 2-3.
The two sides combined for 51 personal fouls & 50 attempts from the free-throw line in what was a highly physical encounter at the Ellesmere Port Sports Village.
Ben Thomas’ men got off to a slow start, as they missed eight of their first 10 attempts from the field, allowing the visitors to create a seven-point separation at the half-way point of the first frame. The Nix missed just one shot in the remaining five minutes of the quarter, however the Sharks managed to preserve their seven-point lead thanks to a couple of baskets apiece from Aaron Anderson and Jordan Ratinho and went into the second stanza up, 21-14.
Cheshire restricted Sheffield to just 13 points in the second quarter, however their own offence didn’t fare much better as they added another 14 points before the break to go into the locker-room down, 28-34. The Nix failed to make a three-pointer in the first 20 minutes of the game and shot just 10-of-23 from the field.
The hosts opened the second half with a couple of makes from three-point land by Namon Wright and Kyle Carey and eventually gained their second lead of the night at the 6:24 mark through another three-point basket from Wright. The Sharks weathered the storm and found themselves on top again just three minutes later, as Kipper Nichols capped off a 9-4 run with a smooth fade-away bucket. Atiba Lyons’ team outscored the Phoenix’s by one point in the last three minutes of the quarter and went into the final frame up 57-54.
The two sides went blow-for-blow until the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when Cheshire finally pulled away thanks to 7-0 run created by the dynamic duo of Levi Bradley and Wright. The Sharks tried to claw back into the game and rescue a precious win on the road, however they did not have an answer for the gyrating, jet-heeled Nix. Thomas’ men saved the best until last as they erupted for 31 points in the fourth quarter and held their opponents to 21 on their way to an important 85-78 victory.
Cheshire shot 56% from the floor and 36% from three-point range while their opponents were less efficient, as they made 47% of their attempts from the floor and just 26% from deep. The Sharks failed to contain the Nix as they committed 31 personal fouls, allowing Thomas’ men to get to the line on 35 occasions.
American shooting-guard Jonathan Williams scored a game-high 22 points on 10-16 FG for the Sharks, while Kipper Nichols also supplied his team with 17 points, five rebounds and a couple of assists.
Wright led the Nix in scoring with 21 points on 40% shooting from three-point range and also added five rebounds and four dimes to his performance.
Bradley replicated his performance from the season opener against the Sharks as he tallied another 20 points alongside four rebounds and a joint game-high +11 Plus/Minus. The 6’7 forward committed zero turnovers.
Noah Dickerson enjoyed his best game in a Phoenix uniform so far, as he added 12 points and six rebounds in just 21 minutes while Phoenix’s starting center Michael Ochereobia also netted 11 points and was just one rebound shy of another double-double.