Cheshire Phoenix made all the running against Bristol Academy Flyers on Sunday night 85-56 to reach the semi-final stage of the BBL Trophy for the second year in a row.
Bristol came in to the game off the back of a huge 90-63 win over Bradford Dragons in EBL Division 1 the previous night, and were looking to produce a major upset, and also etch themselves further in the record books by becoming the first EBL side to reach the last four in the Trophy competition.
Doug McLaughlin-Williams’ first five points helped tie the game for the Flyers after an early blitz by Phoenix, but that would be as close as the contest would get for the visitors to the Northgate Arena. A 12-0 run by Phoenix, during which saw two huge blocks from Reggie Middleton, put John Lavery’s side in full control. Mike Creppy’s three at the end of the period helped extend their lead to 19 points at 30-11.
The second quarter saw the ‘Nix start with back-to-back threes, but Bristol tightened up their defence to make a fight of things, but themselves could not find their shots to drop. Considering their form during the season so far, both sides matched each other at the break for total rebounds, but Phoenix didn’t have much to worry about considering the Flyers’ 26% field goal accuracy. At the half-time break, Phoenix were comfortably ahead 47-26.
Admittedly, the half-time Hoops4Health game between schoolchildren produced more of a grandstand finish than the actual Trophy game in hand, and with just six points scored in the first four minutes of the third quarter, many would be forgiven for wishing that the interlude game had carried on that few minutes longer.
Bristol racked up their fouls sending Phoenix to the line on a number of occasions, but it was Victor Moses’ alley-oop off Middleton’s assist that sent the crowd wild rounding off the quarter 68-38.
The Flyers’ faithful, who had come out in force – in greater numbers than some BBL teams this year to the Northgate – were never let down throughout as their side fought for every ball and gained valuable experience against a side who are in a different class from that of Surrey United, who Bristol conquered in the first round of the Trophy. It will no doubt give them plenty to go away with ahead of their bow in the BBL Championship next season.
Cheshire were also able to field their bench players for the final few minutes, also a chance for those youngsters in Sam Lavery, Jordan Smith and Danny Miller to get a real feel in front of a home crowd.
However, it was Phoenix’s night and their chance to celebrate a second successive BBL Trophy semi-final spot – a fantastic achievement for a side saved by the local community less than 16 months ago.
***EXCLUSIVE REACTION FROM COACHES JOHN LAVERY AND ANDREAS KAPOULAS TO COME***