by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix produced one of their best performances of the season and progressed through to the Final of the BBL Trophy after they managed to overturn a 12-point deficit against the Glasgow Rocks in emphatic fashion.
The Nix knew they needed to play an almost flawless game in order to obtain a double-digit win against the Rocks and they did just that, as they made 61% of their shots from the field and erupted for 15 three-pointers on 57% accuracy from behind the arc. The hosts also made 16 out of their 21 attempts from the free-throw line and accumulated 26 assists on 42 made baskets. Ben Thomas’ men dominated their opponents on the boards as they hauled in 39 rebounds (11 offensive) compared to Glasgow’s 22 (six offensive).
Perhaps the most impressive part of Phoenix’s display was their defence. The Nix restricted the Rocks to just 42% shooting from the field and 37% from three-point range. Jordan Johnson (21) and Jaycee Hillsman (19) were the only Rocks players who finished in double-digits, with the Nix successfully shutting down everyone else on Glasgow’s roster. Cheshire dictated the tempo of the game, especially in the second half, as they added 17 fast-break points compared to Glasgow’s eight. Phoenix only allowed a couple of second-chance points whilst they capitalised on their 11 offensive rebounds by racking up 19 second-chance points.
The Nix out-gunned the Rocks from behind the three-point line and also dominated their opponents from close range as they outscored the visitors by 52-to-26 in the paint.
The Rocks found themselves up by six on the night and 18 on the aggregate at the mid-way point of the opening quarter however the two sides were knotted at 19 points apiece at the end of the first frame.
Cheshire took control of the fixture in the second frame as they stayed in the lead for the majority of the frame. Thomas’ men managed to pull away and create an important eight-point gap before the half-time buzzer sounded, meaning that they needed to win the second half by just five points in order to advance through to the Final of the competition.
The Nix opened the third quarter with a couple of back-to-back three-pointer from Teddy Okereafor and Levi Bradley, which put them on the high side on aggregate. Jonny Bunyan replied with a three-ball of his own however the hosts then engineered a quick-fire 10-2 run which increased their lead to 19 at the mid-way point of the third. The Nix kept their foot on the gas for the remainder of the quarter and it was Namon Wright who capped it off in style as he made an acrobatic fade away jumper to send his team into the final frame up 80-to-54.
Larry Austin Jr threw down arguably the best dunk of the season with just over three minutes left on the clock, while Michael Ochereobia capped off a perfect night with the first three-pointer of his career as the Nix ran out victorious 115-to-72 and booked their place in the Final of the BBL Trophy in Glasgow.
It was a real team effort as every Phoenix starter finished in double-figure scoring, with Levi Bradley paving the way with a game-leading 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting. The American forward also finished with a game-best +46 Plus/Minus.
Noah Dickerson also contributed with 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Ochereobia added 14 points and nine rebounds in just 18 minutes on the court. The British center was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor.