by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix ended 2021 with a loss as their two-game winning streak was snapped by the Manchester Giants at the National Basketball Performance Centre.
As a unit, the Mancunians made 48% of their shots from the field, 28% from three-point range and 64% from the foul line. Lloyd Gardner’s team lost the rebounding battle by 35-to-41 and only accumulated 23 assists to 15 turnovers, however Dan Clark stole the show, whilst helping Manchester steal the game, with a stellar 22-point performance which also included seven rebounds, four blocks and three assists. The GB power-forward made eight out of 16 shots from the field, with half of his makes coming from behind the arc. Clark was perfect from the free-throw line and finished with a game-high +9 Plus/Minus. Namon Wright top scored for the Nix once again, however the American forward was inefficient, as he made just five out of 17 shots on his way to a team-high 17-point performance.
The Nix got off to a great start in Manchester, as an action-packed opening quarter finished 23-to-17 in Cheshire’s favour. Michael Ochereobia led all scorers with six points inside the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Giants found themselves in the ascendancy after Clark converted an and-one play at the 4:23 mark of the second stanza. Gardner’s men went into the interval with a slim three-point lead after they added 11 more points before the break, whilst restricting Cheshire to an inferior nine points during the closing stages of the first half.
The two sides went back and forth, trading blows in the penultimate quarter of the year, with the Nix eventually managing to create a five-point separation for themselves at the 3:04 mark. The Giants used a 6-2 burst to cut the deficit to just one point with 33 seconds left in the third quarter, however they failed to get themselves back in front before the start of the fourth.
Clark opened the final frame with two huge makes from deep, which created a five-point cushion for the Giants. Wright scored Phoenix’s first couple of points in the fourth, after he converted a driving lay-up just before the clock hit the seven-minute mark. Francois Lewis ignited an 8-o run by the Giants as he replied with a two-point jumper on the next possession before Tyrik Armstrong, Josh Steel and Clark backed him up with buckets of their own. Ochereobia stopped the bleeding and reduced Phoenix’s deficit back to single-digits at the 4:36 mark. Wright obtained and converted an acrobatic and-one play, which diminished Manchester’s cushion to just one point with 53 seconds left on the clock, however the Nix failed to complete the comeback as the Giants outscored them by 5-to-2 in the final 40 seconds of the game, sealing their fifth win of the season over the Nix, 80-76.
The Nix were held to just 44% shooting from the floor, 25% from deep and 66% from the charity stripe. Thomas’ men had a poor assist-to-turnover ratio (15 AST – 14 TOs), as more than half of their made field goals were unassisted.
Ochereobia tallied 16 points (8-10 FG) and eight rebounds (seven offensive) in just 24 minutes in the losing effort while Larry Austin Jr. contributed with another good all-around performance, as he finished with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Levi Bradley added 10 points off the bench, in less than 20 minutes.
Giants point-guard Armstrong recorded 16 points (7-13 FG), nine assists and five rebounds while Geno Artison also contributed with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes.