by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix progressed through to the Quarter-Finals of the BBL Trophy after trashing Scottish side Sony Centre Fury at the EPSV.
Fury’s duo – Trey Whitley and Bantu Burroughs – combined for 42 of Fury’s 65 total points, however their efforts were not enough to prevent a heavy 59-point loss at the hands of Ben Thomas’ side.
It was a real team effort by the Nix, as every player in the 10-man rotation managed to score, with captain Teddy Okereafor paving the way with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-7 from three-point range.
The visitors actually started better than the hosts, as the Scots jumped out to a six-point lead inside the first three minutes of the game. The Nix then found their groove and went on an 25-to-9 run to give themselves a double-digit lead (30-20) after the opening quarter. Noah Dickerson checked out at the 2:45 mark of the first quarter and never returned after he suffered a leg injury.
Cheshire turned defence into offence with ease in the second act of the game, as they restricted their opponents to just 11 points in the second quarter, whilst adding 28 themselves to go into the interval with a comfortable 27-point cushion. The highlight of the first half arrived on the last play before the half-time buzzer sounded, as Matt Williamson scored his first Phoenix points after drilling a contested three-point shot from the top of the arc.
Phoenix’s defence let up a little in the penultimate quarter, as the Fury managed to score 16 points, mainly through Whitley’s individual brilliance, however the hosts were firing on all cylinders on offence, as they managed to bring their total up 96 by adding 38 just in the third quarter. Williamson added another three pointer and split a pair of free-throws while the 19-year-old fan favourite, Robbie Graham, also managed to get himself on the board with a three-point make at the 1:17 mark.
The Nix slowed the game down and as a result had their lowest scoring quarter of the night in the final act of the game. Despite dropping down a gear Thomas’ men still managed to add 27 points to bring their total to 123 at the final buzzer. Fury managed to avoid a 60+ point defeat by scoring four of their 17 fourth quarter points in the closing minute and a half of the game. Cheshire ran out victorious 123-64 after a dominant performance over their Scottish opponents.
As a team, the Nix converted 54% of their attempts from the field, and buried 20 threes on 45% shooting from deep. Thomas’ team won the battle of the boards convincingly, 51-to-29 and out-assisted their opponents by 33-to-11. Cheshire committed just six turnovers whilst forcing their opponents into 16. Fury shot 39% from the floor and missed 19 out of their 25 attempts from behind the three-point line.
In the absence of Larry Austin Jr, who missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19, Okereafor added seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block to his team-high 20-point performance.
Williamson played a season-high 15 minutes and 45 seconds and made the most of his opportunity as he totalled 16 points (6-11 FG; 3-7 3PT), two rebounds and two assists.
Kyle Carey delighted those in attendance with an energetic performance at both ends of the court. The British swingman finished with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and a couple of steals.
Graham made four out of eight shots from deep on his way to a 12-point performance, to which he also added five rebounds and three assists.
Levi Bradley tallied a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double off the bench and finished with a game-high +52 Plus/Minus.