by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix suffered their fourth loss in the BBL Cup group-stage after a highly-competitive clash against the Glasgow Rocks.
Both sides played high quality basketball as the hosts made 54% of their shots from the floor, while the Nix countered with 50% efficiency. The Rocks connected on 12 out of 23 attempts from deep, while the visitors made 12 out of 27 shots from distance. The Scottish side edged the Nix in the free-throw battle as they made 16 of 20 attempts while the Nix made three fewer on the same number of tries. The two sides combined for just 15 turnovers (Glasgow 7, Cheshire 8) on the night, resulting in a free-flowing, pulsating game in which neither team led by double-digits.
Radwan Bakkali, who was handed his first BBL start in the absence of both Michael Ochereobia and Noah Dickerson, opened the scoring with a pair of swishes from the free-throw line a minute into the fixture. From then on, the two sides just traded buckets, with the Nix edging ahead by five points at the half-way mark of the opening quarter. With just two minutes left in first frame, the hosts gained their first lead of the night (17-15) thanks to a dunk by Jordan Harris. His teammate, Jaycee Hillsman added two more points from the free-throw line before Josh McSwiggan closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the wing, helping his team close the gap to one point (18-19) before the start of the second stanza.
The Nix found themselves back in the ascendancy just 11 seconds into the second quarter, as Kyle Carey connected on a shot from behind the arc, however Jonny Bunyan replied with a three-pointer of his own at the 9:04 mark. It was another three from Bunyan that helped the Rocks establish a four-point lead at the half-way point of the quarter. The Nix drew level (33-33) at the 4:24 mark thanks to a couple of lay-ups from Levi Bradley and Namon Wright and then proceeded to outscore their opponents by 15-to-11 before the half-time buzzer sounded, meaning that Ben Thomas’ men went into the locker-room up 48-to-44.
The visitors kept the hosts scoreless in the first minute of the second half and extended their lead to a game-high nine points thanks to quick 5-0 run engineered by McSwiggan and Jules Dang-Akodo. The Scottish side replied with a superior 8-0 run before Carey stopped the bleeding with a lay-up at the 6:30 mark. Glasgow’s star point-guard Jordan Johnson levelled the score at 55 points apiece with a trey-ball on the next possession. The two teams scored in equal measure for the rest of the third quarter, however GB point-guard Teddy Okereafor managed to beat the buzzer with a floater, sending the Nix into the final quarter with a slim two-point advantage.
With just under four minutes left in the game, the two teams were knotted at 85 points apiece. Johnson initiated an 8-0 run, in which he made a lay-up, a three-pointer and also assisted on a Gareth Murray three. Okereafor’s driving lay-up at the 2:02 mark stopped Glasgow’s run, however the hosts used the momentum they had already generated to seal the win on home turf. Murray’s team outscored the Nix by 7-to-6 in the final 120 seconds of the game and emerged victorious, 100-93.
All of Glasgow’s starters contributed with at least 15 points, while Jonny Bunyan also added 13 off the bench, on 5-0f-7 shooting. Johnson paved the way for the Rocks, as he netted 21 points (6-12 FG) and 15 assists and also finished with a game-high +13 Plus/Minus. The Rocks were efficient from every spot on the court, as they shot 54% from the field, 52% from deep and 80% from the charity stripe. The Scotsmen assisted on 23 of their 36 makes.
Okereafor put on a clinic against the Rocks, as he tallied 28 points (9-15 FG) and 11 assists, whilst committing just one turnover. His efforts were backed up by Bakkali (16), Bradley (13) and Dang-Akodo (13) who all finished with double-digit points. McSwiggan had an efficient night from behind the arc, as he made three out of six attempts and also added seven rebounds, three steals and a couple of assists to his performance.