by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix captured their sixth win in the BBL Championship against the Surrey Scorchers at the Surrey Sports Park.
Despite their abysmal 1-7 record coming into the fixture, the Scorchers proved to be a stern test for Ben Thomas’ side as they battled well throughout the entire night and actually won three out of four quarters. Legend Robertin and Stanley Davis Jr both produced great all-around performances for the home side, however their teammates failed to reach the same level as no other Surrey players finished in double-figure scoring.
It was a great team effort from the Nix, as six players finished with double-digit points. Cheshire shot the ball well once again, as they connected on 31-of-65 attempts from the field (47%) and 10-of-26 attempts from deep (38%).
The Scorchers got off to a hot 8-2 start, which prompted coach Thomas into calling a time-out at the 6:27 mark of the first quarter. Creon Raftopoulos’ men were unfazed by the break, as they continued to execute well on both ends of the court, eventually increasing their lead to double-digits at the 4:15 mark. Ben Mockford tried to ignite a run for his team by connecting on a three-pointer at the 3:51 mark however the Scorchers came right back with a triple of their own on the next possession. The Nix found their groove towards the end of the opening frame, however the hosts still went into the second quarter up, 20-19.
The two teams were knotted at 26 points apiece with just under eight minutes left to play in the first half and that’s when the Nix started firing on all cylinders, as they created a 10-point separation for themselves by the time the clock reached the five-minute mark. The Scorchers failed the reduce the deficit before the interval and went into the locker-room trailing, 36-46.
Phoenix’s lead ballooned to a game-high 17 points at the 5:58 mark of the third quarter, after Namon Wright converted a driving lay-up in transition. The Scorchers showed great heart as they battled well and chipped away at Phoenix’s lead, eventually bringing it back down to single-digits with just over a minute left in the penultimate act. Larry Austin Jr had the chance to reinstate Phoenix’s double-digit lead with the last shot of the quarter however the American point-guard failed to connect on his three-point attempt. Cheshire went into the final quarter with a seven-point cushion, despite leading by as much as 17 at one point of the quarter.
Surrey opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run which cut Phoenix’s advantage to one point at the 8:14 mark. Michael Ochereobia also picked up his fifth & final foul in the process. Austin Jr supplied the Nix with two back-to-back lay-ups plus a free-throw which gave Thomas’ men some breathing room following Surrey’s dangerous start in the final frame. The Nix were up by nine at the 3:15 mark when Noah Dickerson also fouled out of the game. Surrey threw everything they had at the Nix in the dying minutes of the contest, however their efforts weren’t strong enough to overpower Cheshire, who came into the building brimming with confidence following their dominant win over the Plymouth City Patriots in the BBL Trophy Quarter-Final just two days earlier. The visitors emerged victorious 85-80 in the first meeting of the season between the two sides.
Cheshire held their opponents to just 44% shooting from the floor and 23% from three-point land. Phoenix’s bench out-performed Surrey’s second-unit by 28-to-15.
Levi Bradley led the way with a team-high 16 points and finished with a game-best +19 Plus/Minus, while Austin Jr impressed once again off the bench as he finished with 14 points, six assists, five rebounds and a couple of blocks.
Teddy Okereafor connected on four out of seven attempts from downtown and dished out nine out of Phoenix’s 19 total assists. Sharpshooter Ben Mockford added 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.