by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix claimed a gutsy victory over the resurgent Plymouth City Patriots in the last game before the international break.
The Nix have now won 11 out of their last 13 fixtures in all competitions, with the triumph against the Patriots also extending their winning streak to six straight games. Despite trailing for the majority of the night, Ben Thomas’ men managed to snap Plymouth’s four-game winning streak after they executed better in crunch-time.
Antonio Williams played the full 40 minutes and contributed with 22 points, six assists and three steals on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor, however the American guard turned the ball over on six occasions, was blocked twice and finished with a -3 Plus/Minus.
Rowell Graham-Bell chipped in with 22 points off the bench, while Joe Hart flirted with a triple-double as he tallied 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Nix did a great job of keeping Plymouth’s other starters, Cameron King, Elvisi Dusha and Rashad Hassan quiet as the trio combined for just 17 points, with Hassan fouling out after just 19 minutes on the court.
The Nix were the better side to start off the contest as they found themselves up by five points mid-way through the first quarter however that’s when Plymouth engineered a quick 9-0 run which placed them on the high side for the first time. Cheshire replied with seven unanswered points which helped them regain the lead before Graham-Bell knocked down a three-pointer to tie the scores at 19-points apiece with two minutes left in the opening frame. Despite scoring the last bucket of the quarter through Kyle Carey, the Nix went into the second stanza trailing by one point after Williams and Hassan added three points before Carey’s bucket.
The two sides entertained those in attendance as they traded baskets for the majority of the second quarter. Paul James’ men managed to find some separation as they went on a 9-to-1 run after being tied at 39-39 with just over three minutes left in the first half. The visitors led by eight points with 57 seconds remaining however a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Carey reduced Plymouth’s advantage to just five at the interval.
The penultimate quarter turned out to be the the most low-key of the night, as both teams added just 15 points each which meant that Plymouth’s five-point cushion remained intact heading into the fourth and final act of the game.
Williams’ and-one play at the 7:35 mark of the fourth increased Plymouth’s lead to eight, however the Nix showed grit and determination as they embarked on a 12-to-4 run and levelled the score at 74 points apiece with less than three minutes left on the clock. The game was set up for a grand finale as the two sides found themselves knotted at 77 points apiece with 48 seconds until the final buzzer. With the roaring Nix Nation behind them and former Phoenix guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright watching on from the court-side sofa, the hosts out-hustled their opponents in the most crucial stage of the game as they added three points through Larry Austin Jr and Teddy Okereafor whilst keeping the Patriots scoreless in the dying stages of the contest. Cheshire obtained their sixth straight win and snapped Plymouth’s four-game winning run in the process.
Austin Jr. delivered a superb all-around performance as he finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Namon Wright scored a joint team-high 15 points while Levi Bradley kept his red-hot scoring streak alive as he recorded his 10th straight game with 10+ points in all competitions.
Michael Ochereobia chipped in with 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks while Carey added 11 points and a couple of dimes off the bench.
Despite shooting just 35% from the floor and 34% from deep, the Nix did a great job of getting to the foul line where they made 21 out of their 29 total attempts. Cheshire won the rebounding battle by 42-to-37 and obtained 19 assists on 12 turnovers.
Okereafor had an off night shooting wise as he missed 11 out of 12 attempts from the floor however he made some key plays down the stretch and accumulated seven assists on zero turnovers.