It's been a tough start to life in the 2016/17 season for Cheshire Phoenix after much optimism following their summer recruitment and installation of ex-Cheshire playing star Colin O'Reilly as Head Coach.
The currently sit at a 2 - 5 record in The BBL Championship and on Friday night crashed out of The BBL Cup 95 - 85 despite a heroic effort away at Esh Group Eagles Newcastle where a tough task was made all the tougher after Phoenix surprisingly cut small forward Josh Fox from their roster.
Fox who had been playing over 32 minutes a game for The Phoenix averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds a game found his numbers and perhaps more importantly his style was not suited to what Cheshire needed and in his last game a home loss v Plymouth only played 25 minutes scoring five points.
Phoenix have also lost James Batish and Kaj-Bjorn Sherman from their original line-up leaving them with a very short bench of five senior players and three juniors at O'Reilly's disposal. Clearly it's a situation that needs to change.
EuroBasket caught up with General Manager James Brice immediately after the loss at Newcastle and he gave his thoughts on the game and the future for Cheshire going forwards.
'First of all I have to say I was really proud of the players tonight. We came here and dug deep. A short rotation and a short bench but we stuck together this week as a group in practice. We knew we were in for a tough time coming here against Newcastle but we're really proud of the effort and we can crack on from here.'
With no Batish, Sherman and now Fox seemingly on his way are Cheshire looking to bring players in?
'We're always looking to improve the squad and we're in the market for players. I was pretty open about that last week with our home press. We're looking to bring a couple of players in, maybe three if we can and we're always looking to improve.'
'Obviously it's disappointing when you bring guys in and it doesn't quite work out but that happens and we'll learn from that again so yes we're definitely looking to add to the squad and make a run for it in the next three quarters of the season.'
Cheshire now have a two-week break for Brice and O'Reilly to consider their options and are apparently very close to signing their first replacement but it won't be O'Reilly himself stepping up to become Player-Coach.
'It's a question I've been asked a lot and it's a question I've put to him as well. We even spoke about it when we interviewed him for the Coach's job about him kitting up but I can't see it happening to be honest.'
'As I say we have spoke about it and I think he could still do it in this league. Obviously he's not old, he's only 32 years of age but he just wants to concentrate on coaching and we're happy for him to do that.'
'He's not happy with the way things have gone but he's fully involved in all the discussions. He's settled in really well and knows the area and The Club really well. This is a real long-term project here at The Phoenix.'
'In the past few years it hasn't quite been that and there have been a lot of changes. So now we're looking for stability and Colin's a big part of that program and he's really buying in to that.' 'All the decision on the playing side are his and supported by The Club whatever decision he makes and we're all looking long-term right now..'
'There's still a lot to play for this season and we've certainly not written it off this early. We've got to focus on the league and finish as high up as we can and we're looking at The Trophy as well. That's a competition that's close to The Club's heart.'
'We won it four times in a row in the past a few years ago. We're really looking to crack on this year, address our issues as soon as we can and make a statement once we've finalised the roster. Colin's confident, we're confident to see what the team can produce.'
It certainly hasn't been all doom and gloom for Phoenix this season. New Captain Jamell Anderson has made a very big and mature contribution since coming over from Leicester and he's been joined by Raheem May-Thompson who's certainly showing what it takes at BBL level.
'Raheem is a complete breath of fresh air on and off the court. He was in a situation at Leicester where he wasn't playing many minutes and when he was they weren't important minutes. We saw something that we really thought we could get out of him.'
'He's been a great addition and a massive upgrade to our team so far. He had another massive double-double again tonight (17 points and 15 rebounds) so he's really shining.
'It's really good that The Club is making moves for players like him, a British player, and putting confidence in in him to play in this league and he's producing and doing it justice. We're really happy with Raheem and he's someone that long-term we'd like to keep hold off.'
Identifying the right players to fit a plan and a Coach's style is one thing but being able to bring them in is another. But despite the start and the problems they've had Brice is still optimistic about The Phoenix's future.
'Definitely, very confident. Like I said it's a long-term project that we're looking for and we're confident that the changes that we're making or have made are going to improve the team and The Club going forward. We've got a young Coach who's hungry and wants to win and who wants to be here and improve The Club on and off the court so we're very optimistic about the future.'
It is very refreshing in a cut-throat success at all costs world to hear that a Club is willing to take short-term pain for long-term gain and with Brice at the helm and O'Reilly buying in then it seems Cheshire Phoenix and their fans can look forward to a bright future.
Scorchers take sixth league win in seven outings in front of a sell-out crowd in Bristol BBL Championship Bristol Flyers 74 (13,29,48) (Ali 20, Cosby 17, Edozie 12) Surrey Scorchers 85 (24,48,64) (Ogedengbe 26, Taylor 19, McCray 17) A blistering start by Surrey Scorchers paved the way for a successful south-west raid as they outpaced Bristol Flyers 74-85 in front of a full house at the WISE Arena. Having lost 24 hours earlier in the derby match-up at Plymouth Raiders on BBC Sport, Flye... [read more]
Scorchers take sixth league win in seven outings in front of a sell-out crowd in Bristol
A blistering start by Surrey Scorchers paved the way for a successful south-west raid as they outpaced Bristol Flyers 74-85 in front of a full house at the WISE Arena.
Having lost 24 hours earlier in the derby match-up at Plymouth Raiders on BBC Sport, Flyers were looking to bounce back, but were left stalling on the starting line as they failed to get in gear.
In stark contrast, Scorchers caught fire from the tip and posted the first 11 points of the game. Even when Flyers eventually came alive and threatened a renaissance, 14 points in 16 first-half minutes from Tayo Ogedengbe (198-F-87) kept the hosts at bay, as Surrey built a commanding 48-29 advantage at the interval.
Bristol tried to recover the situation when the action resumed, but it looked like the damage had already been done as Scorchers kept them at arms' length.
It was a different story during the last period, as Flyers set up a tense finale when they clicked offensively and a drive and score from Daniel Edozie briefly cut the gap to 76-72.
But, Scorchers were able to close out the win to continue their super form of late as Ogedengbe eventually finished with 26 points, while the defeat wrapped up a miserable weekend for the home side.
The history keeps on happening in the WBBL and it proved to be a landmark and dramatic Saturday as Caledonia Pride came back from a double-digit deficit to stun Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters 79-78 and take a first ever home floor victory. Natalie Bastian sunk the crucial free-throws at the death and also top-scored, but it was a pair of go-ahead triples from Scottish guard Hannah Robb heading into crunch time which made the difference. There was then drama at the unveiling of the... [read more]
The history keeps on happening in the WBBL and it proved to be a landmark and dramatic Saturday as Caledonia Pride came back from a double-digit deficit to stun Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters 79-78 and take a first ever home floor victory.
Natalie Bastian sunk the crucial free-throws at the death and also top-scored, but it was a pair of go-ahead triples from Scottish guard Hannah Robb heading into crunch time which made the difference.
There was then drama at the unveiling of the brand-new Archers Arena as Cardiff Met completed a memorable first outing with an absorbing 58-55 success against Team Northumbria as Judit Fritz (183-G/F-87, college: St.Francis, NY, agency: Interperformances) hit a last-gasp triple.
Finally, there was great heart and resilience shown by Manchester Mystics in the third game of the day which was also exhilarating. Great Britain guard Georgia Jones registered 24 points and 12 rebounds as the visitors took a magnificent 82-80 double overtime win at Barking Abbey Crusaders.
Caledonia Pride collected a historic first ever home success in the WBBL after coming from behind to take a famous 79-78 triumph against Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters.
Doubling their league win tally for the season, it was a huge scalp for the Scottish side, as rather fittingly, the game's top scorer Natalie Bastian calmly iced a pair of free-throws to complete a fantastic comeback.
Having trailed by 12 points with less than five minutes remaining on the game clock, it looked as if the Pride's elusive search for a first home win would continue a bit longer.
But, off the back of some very nice defence and a flurry of three-pointers, including a pair from Scottish star Hannah Robb, it put them back in contention.
As Hatters cracked down the stretch despite 22 points and 15 rebounds from the powerful Brittany Winborne, the locals celebrated a hugely exciting victory on home soil for the first time.
The first game at the impressive new Archers Arena will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate to attend after Judit Fritz nailed a dramatic late triple to hand the hosts a gripping 58-55 win against Team Northumbria.
With an eye-catching crowd on site for its first WBBL match-up, the supporters inside the Arena were rewarded for their attendance after a nail-biting but exhilarating conclusion - although it had looked like Northumbria might spoil the party.
They went into the locker rooms at the half holding a 32-24 advantage and having thrown a defensive blanket over Archers.
But after making some half-time adjustments, Cardiff got themselves back into the contest, with Sarah Wagstaff instrumental as she supported the game-winning effort of Fritz with 16-points in a dramatic final quarter.
Claudia Baraut posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.
A brilliant team performance underpinned by 24 points and 12 rebounds from Great Britain guard Georgia Jones facilitated a wonderful 82-80 double overtime triumph for Manchester Mystics at a crestfallen Barking Abbey Crusaders.
The home side had been on the front foot for almost all of the game and looked like a lock to take victory, but Mystics would not go away and a late rescue mission saw them come back from 10 points behind with less than five minutes of regulation remaining.
Some great play from Rheanne Bailey including a big three-pointer put them on the path to recovery and as Amy Browne sunk two free-throws, the first period of overtime arrived at 65-65.
It again looked like Barking would finish the job but Jones had other ideas as she made an off-balance three-pointer to save her team again and force another five minutes of action.
Manchester then finally got the edge and were able to finish the job - despite the home team benefitting from double-doubles from Savannah Wilkinson and Abigail Johnson.
There were mixed fortunes for last week's BBL Trophy finalists on a dramatic Friday night in the BBL. Leicester Riders saw their club record 16-game win streak come to an end as they were beaten 93-91 by Worcester Wolves, who were led by 24 points from Danny Huffor. Meanwhile, Cory Dixon scored 32 points as Plymouth Raiders bounced back from their Final disappointment with an 85-62 success over their South-West rivals, Bristol Flyers. Esh Group Eagles Newcastle ran out convincing 96-65... [read more]
There were mixed fortunes for last week's BBL Trophy finalists on a dramatic Friday night in the BBL.
Leicester Riders saw their club record 16-game win streak come to an end as they were beaten 93-91 by Worcester Wolves, who were led by 24 points from Danny Huffor.
Meanwhile, Cory Dixon scored 32 points as Plymouth Raiders bounced back from their Final disappointment with an 85-62 success over their South-West rivals, Bristol Flyers.
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle ran out convincing 96-65 winners against Manchester Giants as Deondre Parks scored 22, while Cheshire Phoenix edged out London Lions 86-87 on the road with Mike DiNunno (180-PG-90, college: E.Kentucky, agency: Interperformances) netting the late game-winner.
Plymouth Raiders bounced back from their BBL Trophy Final disappointment with a much-needed victory as they defeated South-West rivals, Bristol Flyers, 85-62.
Cory Dixon was in inspired form and poured in 32 points to go with 11 rebounds, while Daryl Corletto netted 14 of his 16 points in a pivotal third quarter for his side.
Both teams raced out of the blocks and the game was tied at 14 at the mid-point in the first quarter before Plymouth edged ahead.
The home side went on a 13-0 run late in the second, but a deep three from Hameed Ali ended the first half with Bristol down 10.
Corletto found his range in the third with 11 points in a row as he fired in four triples in total in the quarter as the Raiders extended their advantage out to 18.
There was no let up in the fourth as Plymouth ensured there was to be no fightback from the Flyers with Dixon turning on the style for the home crowd with consecutive dunks in quick succession en route to victory.
A win for Bristol would have put the two teams level, but it's the Raiders who pull away from their rivals with the important head-to-head secured.
BBL Championship London Lions 86 (29,52,68) (Taylor/Hassan 24, Niktash 21) Cheshire Phoenix 87 (21,43,69) (Allen-Jordan 25, May-Thompson 22, Brown 14)
Cheshire Phoenix claimed an 86-87 win on the road against London Lions following late heroics from Mike DiNunno.
The American guard was 0-7 from downtown before stepping up with two huge triples in the final minute to continue the Nix's recent win streak.
Dii'jon Allen-Jordan had a game-high 25 points for the visitors with Raheem May-Thompson adding 22 points in the win.
After a delayed start, the Lions were the quickest out of the blocks and they opened up a 29-21 advantage by the end of the opening period.
Navid Niktash raced to 19 points with a string of triples to ensure the Lions remained in command at the break. However, Cheshire hit back in the third and took the lead on the back of a 14-2 burst.
The Lions restored their advantage, but it would be the visitors ahead going into the final 10 minutes by the narrowest of margins.
London went on an 8-0 run to lead 76-71 but the game went right down to the wire with DiNunno tying the game with a three in the final minute.
Taylor held his nerve with two free throws to edge Lions ahead before DiNunno struck again from downtown for the win.
BBL Championship Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 96 (20,54,72) (Parks 22, Fletcher 17, Martin 16) Manchester Giants 65 (19,33,47) (Okoro 14, Toluwase 11, Jones 10)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle returned to winning ways in dominant fashion as they recorded a 96-65 victory over Manchester Giants.
Fab Flournoy's side had lost ground in the title race with recent defeats, but powered their way to a 20th league win of the season.
Deondre Parks put up 22 points in the win in a balanced scoring attack from the Eagles, who were still without Darius Defoe.
The visitors made a bright start and were down by one at the end of the opening 10 minutes before Newcastle broke clear.
34 points were poured in by the home side in the second as they stormed into a 21-point lead at the interval with Rahmon Fletcher and Parks combining for 32 at the half - one short of Manchester's total tally.
The lead continued to grow in the third with Orlan Jackman scoring five straight to move his career BBL tally to 1000 points and he would finish with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Joe Hart started the fourth with back-to-back triples as the Eagles led by as many as 36 as they completed a comprehensive win.
Jerelle Okoro led the Giants with 14 points, while Callum Jones posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in his 200th BBL Championship appearance.
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