by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix will have to defeat the Glasgow Rocks by 13 points or more in order to advance through to the BBL Trophy Final on Sunday night.
The Rocks managed to snap Cheshire’s six-game winning streak as Ben Thomas’ men fell to a 12-point defeat in their first game back since the international break.
The Rocks enjoyed a great shooting night as they converted 58% of their shots from the field, including an eye-watering 52% from three-point territory. Gareth Murray’s team accumulated 28 assists on 37 made baskets and out-rebounded the Nix by 34-to-28.
The Nix missed just two out of their 16 total attempts from the free-throw line however they were inferior to their opponents in terms of three-point accuracy (33% 3PT) and overall field-goal percentage (49% FG).
Phoenix center Michael Ochereobia won the tip and allowed the team’s top-scorer, Namon Wright, to score the first points of the game from three-point range at the 9:40 mark. The two sides battled well and eventually found themselves knotted at 15 points apiece at the half-way point of the opening quarter. The Rocks closed the first period of play better than their opponents as they outscored the Nix by 12-to-5 to give themselves a seven-point lead going into the second quarter.
Glasgow’s lead reached double-digits at the 6:12 mark after Jordan Johnson connected on a three-point attempt. The hosts looked set to go into the break with a 14-point lead after a brilliantly executed second frame, however Teddy Okereafor managed to beat the buzzer with a three-pointer, reducing Phoenix’s deficit to 11 at the break.
Cheshire’s defence failed to improve in the penultimate act of the night as they gave up a further 26 points whilst only adding 24 themselves, meaning that Thomas’ squad went into the fourth & final act behind by 15 points.
The Nix played their best basketball in the final frame, as they used a 21-to-8 run in the span of around seven minutes to cut the deficit to single digits with just over two minutes remaining. Despite leading by as much as 19, Glasgow saw their lead reduced to just eight points, however they reacted well as they closed the last two minutes with an 8-to-4 run which means they’ll go into Sunday’s second leg at the EPSV with a healthy 12-point cushion.
Larry Austin Jr. stood out for the Nix, as he finished with a game-high 23 points which also included nine rebounds and seven assists.
Levi Bradley continued his hot scoring streak as he tallied 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor while Ochereobia added 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Despite not having an efficient night shooting the ball, Wright still managed to supply the Nix with 15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Jordan Harris and Boban Jacdonmi both scored a joint team-high 22 points while Johnson added 17 points and dished out 14 assists.
Jaycee Hillsman (14) and Gareth Murray (13) both finished with double-figure points off the bench.