Cheshire Phoenix 68 – 71 Leicester Riders
by Vlad Ionasc
Cheshire Phoenix crashed out of the play-offs after a narrow loss away to the Leicester Riders.
Despite a good performance from the Nix on the road, the team couldn’t overcome the deficit created by their opponents in the first leg at the Cheshire Oaks Arena. Louis Sayers provided 17 points off the bench while Tim Williams led the Riders with 22 points. The Nix played great team basketball but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to eliminate their opponents.
The visitors started the game well, they shared the ball around and accumulated five assists by the end of the first quarter, Momcilo Latinovic was responsible for most of the points in the opening act of the game but the team as a whole played very well. The hosts made just one of their five three-point attempts while the Nix connected on three of four attempts. Despite their positive display in the first, the guests went into the second quarter down 17-18.
The home side opened the second period of play with a 7-0 run as they looked to seize control of the series. The Nix quickly responded with a 6-0 run of their own. Cheshire battled hard throughout the quarter and eventually gained the lead with just a minute left in the half. Nix’s lead could’ve been much bigger but unfortunately the visitors were forced into 10 turnovers which allowed the Riders more opportunities to score the basketball. Despite their turnover trouble, Phoenix trailed by just one point at half time.
The Nix started the second half on the front foot. Ben Thomas’ side got off to an immediate 5-2 run, knowing that their season was in jeopardy. The Riders regained the lead at the 6:02 mark in the third quarter but makes from Daniel Norl and Dii’Jon Allen-Jordan meant that the guests built up a six-point cushion, which left them just two points adrift of the Riders in the series. Cheshire found themselves level on aggregate after Jalen Hayes knocked down a pair of free-throws. Phoenix had a great quarter as they outscored their opponents 20-11 and levelled the series with just 10 minutes left to play.
The hosts kept Cheshire scoreless for the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, as they embarked on a 6-0 run. The Nix maintained a high intensity and fought together to secure the victory and qualification to the next round but the Riders closed the game slightly better, just like they did the night before. Tim Williams carried the scoring load for the hosts as he put up a game-high 22 points. The Riders won the game 71 – 68 and secured their place in the next round.
Key Team Stat: 20 assists. The Nix moved the ball around well and created good looks for each other, however they shot a poor 34% from the field and allowed the Riders 13 offensive rebounds, which in turn gave their opponents the win on the night and ultimately the series.