by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix brushed past the Sheffield Sharks with ease and captured their fourth win in the BBL Championship.
The Nix outscored the Sharks in all four quarters on Friday night at Ponds Forge and clinched their ninth consecutive victory over Atiba Lyons’ men in all competitions. Cheshire restricted Sheffield to just 56 points on 71 field-goal attempts as the hosts made just 32% of their attempts from the field and 33% from three-point range. The Sharks also struggled to convert their freebies as they missed four out of six shots from the foul-line.
Phoenix got off to a great start as they established a five-point lead inside the first four minutes of the night, however the Sharks countered well and earned their first lead of the night at the 4:08 mark of the first quarter, when Kipper Nichols capped off a 8-2 Sheffield run with a powerful dunk. Cheshire responded with a three-pointer from Namon Wright and then proceeded to outscore the hosts by 5-to-2 in the final few minutes of the quarter, reinstating their original five-point advantage before the start of the second frame.
Mike Tuck converted Sheffield’s only made free-throws of the night at the 9:20 mark of the second quarter, however Cheshire came right back with buckets from Levi Bradley, Michael Ochereobia and Larry Austin, extending their lead to a then game-high eight points. The low-key second stanza eventually finished 13-to-11 in favour of the Phoenix, meaning that Ben Thomas’ side went into the break with a seven-point advantage over their opponents.
The two sides battled well in the penultimate quarter and the hosts actually managed to reduce the deficit to a single possession, with three minutes left before the start of the final act, however the Nix closed the quarter superbly as they drilled consecutive three-pointer through Teddy Okereafor and Bradley before Austin replied to Nichols’ two-point make at the 1:44 mark with a turn-around jumper on Phoenix’s last offense of the frame. Austin also assisted both of Okereafor’s and Bradley’s makes from three-point land as the Nix went into the final frame with a nine-point cushion.
Cheshire pulled away for good after they held Sheffield scoreless in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, while they added eight unanswered points to bring their total up to 60, with seven minutes left on the clock. Rodney Glasgow Jr tried to spark a Sheffield comeback, as he buried a three-pointer and a floater before assisting Jordan Ratinho on consecutive three-pointers, however the hosts failed to reduce the deficit back down to single digits even after Glasgow’s brilliant offensive sequence. Phoenix went on another dominant 11-o run before Nichols stopped the bleeding after he was set up by Glasgow for an easy two-pointer. Wright split a pair of free-throws which iced the final score at 77-56 in the favour of the visitors.
The Nix won the rebounding battle by 49-to-33 and also accumulated more assists (15) than their opponents (13). Cheshire shot 45% from the field and 33% from three-point range. Phoenix’s bench, which consisted of Kyle Carey and Austin, outscored Sheffield’s by 19-to-4. Cheshire scored 38 points inside Sheffield’s bench while the hosts managed to acquire just 18 points from inside Phoenix’s paint.
Bradley finished with a game-high 19 points (6-12 FG; 3-7 3PT), to which he also added nine rebounds and one dime.
Ochereobia supplied the Nix with an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double, in which he shot 66% from the floor and also added a couple of assists, one block and one steal.
In his return to the rotation, Austin tallied 12 points (6-11 FG), six rebounds, three assists and finished with a game-high +21 Plus/Minus in 23 minutes off the bench.
Glasgow led the way for the Sharks, as he finished with a team-high 17 points (7-10 FG) and five assists on just one turnover, while Ratinho notched a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double.