by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix succumbed to a heavy 39-point defeat against the London Lions at the Copper Box Arena.
Vince Macaulay’s team dominated the fixture from the start to finish, as the Nix failed to find themselves on the front foot at any point of the night. The Lions put on a great shooting display, as they made 40 out of 75 attempts from the floor (53% FG) and 15 of 34 attempts from deep (44% 3PT). The hosts played great team basketball as they assisted on 26 of their 40 makes, whilst committing just 11 turnovers.
The Nix were boosted by Michael Ochereobia’s return to the starting line-up, however they still lost the rebounding battle 30-to-52. Ben Thomas’ team finished with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio as they obtained just 13 assists and committed 15 turnovers. Cheshire shot the ball pretty well from deep, as they connected on nine out of 25 attempts (36% 3PT) and also missed just two free-throws out of 17 attempted (88% FT), however their overall field-goal percentage (25-68 FG, 36%) was not good enough to cause the Lions any problems.
The Lions exploded for a 14-2 start inside the first four minutes of the contest, with Cheshire’s only points coming from Namon Wright following a well executed after time-out play. The Nix finally found some rhythm around the six-minute mark of the first quarter, however they were still outscored by 12-to-10 in the last five minutes and went into the second stanza trailing the Lions 17-to-28.
Teddy Okereafor opened the second quarter with a three-pointer inside the first seven seconds, however the Nix then failed to score until the 7:01 mark when GB guard Ben Mockford knocked down a pull-up jumper to reduce the deficit to 10. The Lions seemed to be stuck in first gear in the first five minutes of the second quarter as they only amassed eight points, while the Nix were right behind with seven of their own, however the Londoners turned up the heat in the final five minutes of the first half as they added 17 points, whilst restricting the Nix to just eight, meaning that Thomas’ team went into the break behind by 32-to-53.
The Nix only made 11 baskets during the first 20 minutes and accumulated just three assists, while their opponents had already tallied 15 assists. Cheshire shot 31% from the field in the first half, while the Lions connected on 51% of their attempts, including 50% from three-point range (8-16 3PT).
Despite Cheshire’s best efforts to claw back into the fixture, with Kyle Carey and Josh McSwiggan particularly impressing with their resilience and shot-making, London’s lead stood at 22 points at the mid-way point of the third quarter. With three minutes left in the penultimate quarter, Carey decreased the deficit to 18 with a good drive & finish at the rim but London’s star-man Isaiah Reese answered back with a long-range three and re-established his team’s 20+ point advantage. The Nix failed to secure the defensive rebound on the last possession of the quarter and allowed Julian Washburn to beat the buzzer to send the Lions into the final quarter up 75-56.
Levi Bradley scored the first basket of the fourth quarter, a three-pointer at the 8:30 mark, before Justin Robinson answered back with a three of his own just 10 seconds later. Bradley and Robinson then exchanged two-pointers before Lorenzo Cugini sparked a 13-0 run for the Lions, which was only stopped at the 5:12 mark by Wright trey-ball. Kylor Kelley made a couple of back-to-back threes to increase London’s lead to a game-high 42 points with just 31 seconds left to play, however it was Carey who scored the last bucket of the game with 23 seconds remaining. The Lions dribbled out their final possession and confirmed their 113-74 victory.
Dirk Williams paved the way with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep, while Jordan Williams posted an 11-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in just under 24 minutes. Kelley (19), Cugini (18), Robinson (13) and Reese (12) also supplied the Lions with double-digit points.
Okereafor tallied a team-high 14 points and five assists. Cheshire’s point-guard also made four of his eight attempts from three-point range. Wright added 13 points and was flawless from three-point range (3-3 3PT). Radwan Bakkali was Cheshire’s top performer off-the-bench as he tallied 12 points (4-5 FG), four rebounds and one assist in just under 17 minutes.