Cheshire Phoenix secured fifth place in the BBL Championship with a 97-78 victory over the Birmingham Knights at the Northgate Arena on Sunday night.
They now will face Leicester Riders in the quarter-finals of the playoffs, after Sheffield Sharks’ magnificent comeback against Glasgow Rocks which meant the Sharks would either second or third depending upon further results.
The Knights had nothing to lose and came out fighting after a disappointing loss to the newly elected BBL Champions, Newcastle Eagles, on Saturday night.
Paul Douglas’ side, without star guard Brent Benson, stormed to an early 18-4 lead, as the ‘Nix struggled to get in to gear.
Shots started to drop and the gap began to close for Cheshire but there was still somewhat of a lackadaisical approach to the game with errors dotted throughout the first period, as Martyn Gayle helped to establish a seven-point lead, 18-25 at the end of the quarter.
In the second, John Lavery’s men were quickly under pressure again, through poor shot selection, facing up to the intensity of the Knights and also the foul count stacking up against them (highlighted by a technical for Middleton) to putting Nix in the penalty midway through the stanza.
Luckily for Cheshire, it was not to be Knights’ night from the line, and despite the chance to construct a healthy lead, it was the home side who finished the half the better, cutting Birmingham’s lead to just one point, 43-44, at the break.
Phoenix picked up right from where they left off, initially trading baskets, they began to build a lead that continued to increase as the game wore on. A 14-4 run from Cheshire in the latter part of the third put them in complete command leading to a 71-58 lead going in to the last period.
Lavery’s side turned up the heat on Knights as their heads dropped, and produced a game-high lead of 26 points thanks to Dominique Coleman, allowing some court time for Sam Lavery and Danny Miller, as Cheshire played the rest of the game out on the way to securing the victory and fifth place in the BBL Championship.
Cheshire’s Coleman led all scorers on 27 points, with six rebounds, as Victor Moses bagged another double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds.
For the Knights, former Mersey Tiger Josh Lockett, who also attended Georgestown with Moses, was their stand out performer with a double-double of 11 points and ten rebounds, as six of Birmingham’s players made double-digits in scoring, Emile Hopkins leading them with 14 points.