Cheshire Phoenix were the weekend’s biggest winners in the BBL Championship – two back-to-back road victories in their first games of 2014, rounded off by the news of head coach John Lavery winning December’s Coach of the Month prize.
Whilst Cheshire’s away-day efforts paid dividends, others around them were not able to produce similar results in similar circumstances.
London Lions were in full command at the Copper Box, putting on a masterclass of a final quarter over the visiting Glasgow Rocks on Friday. Rod Brown having a sublime night, leading all scorers with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists helping the Lions to a 81-65 victory.
Sterling Davis and his men moved on down to Devon to face Plymouth Raiders on Saturday night but again could not compete down the stretch, and despite improvements from below-par performance in the capital, a 95-83 defeat was also going back to Scotland. Trevor Setty made a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds for the home side.
Second versus third on Saturday in the shape of Leicester Riders and Sheffield Sharks saw the reigning champions regain top spot for less than 24 hours, but not without the need for double overtime.
Riders’ forward Rashad Hassan tied the game with less than two minutes of regulation play in the fourth, however neither team could make that killer shot count. In the first period of overtime, Leicester were on the high side, only for Jeremie Simmons’ jumper taking the game into another five minutes.
However, Jorge Calvo saw out the game from the free-throw line on the way to a Riders win by 75-69.
Cheshire Phoenix’s first game of 2014, and although it took the first quarter to work off the ring rust of the holiday period, they soon got into a comfortable stride over Birmingham Knights dominating the boards as they were doing pre-Christmas. Victor “Mr. Double-Double” Moses did not fail to deliver, with 25 points and 17 rebounds for the visitors in their 89-71 win, which leaves the Knights rooted with a 0-16 record so far.
Following in the footsteps of Glasgow, Sunday saw John Lavery’s side visit the Plymouth Raiders at the Pavilions and picked up right where they left off from Saturday night, by inflicting serious damage in the opening period.
Raiders did go into the half-time beginning to find a way back into the game, but that was soon to be forgotten as Phoenix ran riot in the third, to lead at one stage by 24.
Cheshire’s starting five may have played a significant amount of minutes, but coming away with the 100-84 win going into almost a fortnight’s rest having won their last six in a row – of which three helped in securing head-to-head advantage – it has been a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of starts to the New Year for the rising Phoenix.
Worcester Wolves leapt back over the Riders on Sunday night with their 95-80 away win at Manchester Giants. It was the home side with the initiative, but Paul James’ side moved through the gears and took control of the play just after the start of the second quarter; a disappointing night for the Giants, in a game which saw David Aliu lead all scorers with 35 points.
Finally, Durham Wildcats were under the cosh in Guildford, but turned around an eight-point deficit at half-time to overcome league strugglers Surrey United, eventually winning out 79-69, thanks in part to Danny Huffor’s haul of 25 points.