The Cheshire Phoenix overcame a cold gym, a passionate atmosphere and a determined Manchester Giants side in their 85-93 win Friday night in the Trafford Sportsdome.
The last time the two sides met it ended in victory for the Giants, something Raheem May-Thompson didn’t want repeating. “We came in with a bit of a chip on our shoulder, they beat us at our place so we came here with a pretty firm motive to beat them, it was a bit closer than we’d have wanted but a win’s a win at the end of the day. ”
— Manchester Giants 🏀 (@McrGiants) December 29, 2017
The hosts made the dream start going on an 8-0 run to start the game. An eight-point lead became nine just after Ben Thomas, the Phoenix head coach, called for a timeout to stop the charge of the home side. The hosts shared the scoring between Captain and Point Guard Callum Jones, forward David Kadiri and athletic wing Austin Rettig.
7-foot centre CJ Gettys would be the first scorer for the Phoenix, and they would come to rely heavily on his scoring output. Gettys was an immovable object in the paint and would finish with a game-high 32 points. Talking about Gettys, Giants Head-Coach Danny Byrne told me post-game “We were happy to give up some of the points. The plan was not to give him any midrange shots, I think he hit two so we did our job then. The guy is an offensive threat.”
Once Gettys grabbed the opening points for the visitors the game developed into a streaky pattern that would last the rest of the night. The Phoenix, thanks to 10 first-quarter points from Gettys would go into the first interval with a slim 21-19 lead. Gettys wasn’t the only difference maker as Orlan Jackman contributed eight points in the term, including a three-pointer and three made free throws.
The second quarter was a quarter of streaks. The first streak was by the Phoenix as they built a 10 point advantage, 28-38, but after a timeout by Giants head coach Danny Byrne his side went on a 12-0 run of their own to take the lead 40-38.
The Giants played some very mature basketball, slowing the tempo just enough to play calmly, run some plays and move the ball effectively. Buckets from Jerrelle Okoro, Kadiri and a three from Ingus Bankevics gave them the lead, whilst on the other end they defended tirelessly getting stops and forcing turnovers. Two more baskets from Gettys and a three-pointer from recent signing Devan Bailey gave the visitors a slim lead into the break.
The rhythm continued in the third as a 6-0 Phoenix run was countered by a 9-0 Giants run to get them within a point of the visitors, more good team basketball forcing turners and capitalising. That was as good as it got for the home side as Cheshire went on a tear and would end the quarter with a commanding 72-56 lead, the unstoppable tandem of Gettys and Jackman proving too much for the Giants.
The final quarter brought with it the highlight of the night. David Kadiri took a defensive rebound and decided to go coast to coast with a vicious dunk that no Nix player wanted any part of. Kadiri has been a revelation in the BBL this season and Coach Byrne is confident of a very bright future ahead for the 22-year-old. “Kadiri is going on to big things next season, he’s going to be worth big money. The guy is phenomenal, he’s a great find for us. ”
— Cheshire Phoenix (@CheshireNix) December 29, 2017
The Giants were playing catch up all quarter long and tried to get scoring runs going in the final term, got multiple stops but conceded no fewer than seven fouls in the quarter, which ultimately cost them a shot at victory. The Phoenix were able to see out the quarter with a whimper as they went to the line repeatedly to secure the victory.
The @Chally_Insight #MVP for your Giants in a resilient, hard-fought performance, is #1 David Kadiri #beGiant #BritishBasketball (@dan_routledge – has he broken any records?) pic.twitter.com/ZSmKyDAnWA
— Manchester Giants 🏀 (@McrGiants) December 29, 2017
The Giants are an athletic team and Cheshire could do little with Kadiri who ended with an incredible 20 points and 20 rebounds, but the Giants had too many empty trips up the floor. Callum Jones scored 20 points of his own, but only contributed three assists, a number that is a little low for their primary point guard.
Manchester is on the road next to the Glasgow Rocks whilst Cheshire is away to Plymouth Raiders on the 7th of January in a clash of the playoff hopefuls.
View from the bench
Danny Byrne post game was pleased with what he saw but sees the tie as two points dropped. “We’ve lost that on our terms which I suppose is positive, whereas we’ve just been giving it up and giving it to them.” “We know it’s our lack of focus, we know we gotta work on it, we have been working on it, you can see we’re a completely different team since that time (Early season visit to London) we played London.”
Byrne is confident the team will improve and continues to look to fill their final import slot. “We’re gonna keep working harder. We’re looking to bring someone else in to compliment. We’re gonna keep working hard keep sticking together.”
Byrne is pleased with the improvement of the incredibly athletic Austin Rettig – “It’s clicked, its taken five games longer and its clicked. It’s taken him a while to figure out the BBL. The BBL is fast, athletic and physical and he’s figured out where it is. He’s got there, he’s clicking and we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
Ben Thomas Phoenix head coach was glad to get out of Manchester with the win “It was tough. We knew it was gonna be tough. They’re a tough team, they’re really up for it. It was a game of runs. They couldn’t shake us off and we came up big with some really really big rebounds. It was tough but we knew it was going, to be and I’m just glad we can walk out of here with a W.”
Thomas credits Gettys with opening up the floor, which helped get vital points in the victory. “His scoring easy points in the paint lead to more open space on the outside, Malcolm Riley in the second half hit down two big threes and that came from the dominance on the inside. ”
For Thomas the key to victory Friday night was work rate. “I told them (at the first timeout trailing 8-0) outwork these guys. We started and they were outworking us, defensively they were outworking us, rebounding they were outworking us. That’s what we had to do, we just had to start outworking them and we knew if we’d done that we’d win the game no question in my mind if we’d outwork them we’d win.
View from the floor
The player of the game CJ Gettys talked down his individual role post game, focusing to credit the team, “great team win, teammates got me the ball in the right places, There’s no me in team, any way you find it takes five of us at a time.”
Gettys also summed up the aspirations of the Phoenix, “If you’re playing for the playoffs what are you playing for.”
Orlan Jackman was a major part of Cheshire’s win on a difficult night “The game was a very intense game, in a very cold gym which they’re used to. I think it took us 11 points to be exact to get into the swing of things and then once we got warmed up to the conditions, I want to say we never looked back but we let them back in a few times credit to Manchester Giants for working hard.” Jackman also praised Gettys in the winning effort, “but we closed out the game thanks to some great play from our big man CJ.”
Austin Rettig summed up the Giants’ performance – We played good as a team, we had spurts when we played amazing and had spurts when we didn’t play so well.
Callum Jones the Pheonix captain was frustrated by the result but is looking forward to their clash with Glasgow in the next round. “Glasgow has loads and loads of talent, Tony is going to come in with a gameplan they’re going to stick to. We need to be focused for the entire thing and we’re going to have to work our socks off, but we’re going up there to win not just to take part.”