The Cheshire Phoenix completed a historical Sunday in Birmingham by winning their first ever BBL Cup, defeating the Worcester Wolves by a scoreline of 99 to 88, led by 26 points from game MVP Malcolm Riley.
Cheshire Phoenix and Worcester Wolves entered the BBL Cup Final on Sunday at Arena Birmingham knowing the winners would make history as first time Champions.
The shock news at the start of the contest was Orlan Jackman starting for the Phoenix as he has struggled with a knee injury, but he played much of the first quarter with a heavily strapped left knee. Jackman would do a great job throughout the contest regulating the emotions of his players, calling them into huddles at every interval to settle them down.
Worcester started the better of the two sides with a starting out with an 8-0 run but Cheshire was able to peg them back as the period went on. The best player on the floor after ten minutes was the Worcester Center Dallin Bachynski who bagged 11 points in less than ten minutes of play to help his side to a 25-21 lead at the intermission.
The Wolves bested the Phoenix from beyond the arc early with 12 points coming from long bombs, whilst they kept CJ Gettys quiet in the paint for the most part.
The second quarter started better for the Phoenix who scored a quickfire six points to gain a one-point lead thanks to a three-pointer from Tevin Falzon whilst the Wolves went scoreless for the first three minutes of the period. Gilchrist ended the drought with a sensational putback jam after a missed corner three from Trayvon Palmer.
CJ Gettys came alive in the second quarter with four points in the opening three and a bit minutes with strong offensive play in the paint, forcing Paul James to call timeout. Out of the timeout, the Wolves got a step closer to the Phoneix with a monster alley-oop jam from Robert Gilchrist assisted by Elvisa Dusha.
Phoenix head coach Ben Thomas had his men go full court press and saw immediate results with Bailey getting a steal at half court and taking it the rest of the way to give his a six-point advantage with half of the quarter remaining.
Orlan Jackman conceded his third foul in the contest trying to prevent Palmer from scoring under the basket, and it was a good foul to give as he missed both free throws, but Palmer collected his rebound and net it to bring the sides to within a point.
The pace of play and the ball movement in particular from the Wolves was something to behold all game long, a great advert for British Basketball.
As the buzzer went for halftime, following a thunderous man jam from CJ Gettys, Palmer was fouled sending him to the line to shoot two free throws sinking them both to make it a one-point ball game at the half, Cheshire leading 41-40.
Cheshire worked their way into an eight-point lead thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play and a three-pointer from the big man CJ Gettys who continued his excellent form from the end of the first half.
As much as the Wolves tried to pull the lead back they struggled to live with the uptick in effort and energy from the Phoenix and back to back three from Robert Sandoval lead to an unsportsmanlike foul on him from Navajas, and sent Paul James to call a timeout.
Things would continue to get worse for Worcester as the Phoenix piled on the points whilst their defence contributed with multiple stops, thanks, in part, to solid defending from the seven-footer Gettys. Phoenix ended the half with an 11 point lead, a fantastic crossover from Sandoval led him to add two just before the buzzer.
The fourth quarter started with back to back threes from Falzon followed up by a massive block from Bailey to give the Phoenix a 15 point advantage over the Wolves with 7:25 to play in the contest. Elvisi Dusha, however, wasn’t ready for the contest to be over a drained a tough three to make it a 12 point game.
Four team fouls inside the first four minutes for the Wolves was a sign of their desperation basketball as the Phoenix were managing a double-digit lead in the final five minutes of the contest.
Malcolm Riley managed to have a quietly excellent game with multiple trips to the line and he would make impossibly difficult buckets with ease. It was fitting that Orlan Jackman, the captain of the Phoenix, scored the basket that effectively settled the tie after Dusha was stripped of the ball, the injured Jackman broke down the court to finish strong at the hoop.
Despite the best efforts of Dusha and Bachynski to keep things close, a three from the big man with just over a minute remaining, the earlier fouls and runs the Phoenix were able to get onto meant it was too little too late the Wolves as they fell to the Phoenix. Cheshire did an expert job shutting down the Wolves and managing the final minutes to win their first BBL Cup.
The Wolves were favourites heading into the final with good reason, but ultimately they were outplayed and outclassed at times by a Cheshire side who got on a roll and never looked back. Worcester failed to contain the offensive threat of CJ Gettys consistently and great performances from Sandoval and Riley countered a solid team effort from the beaten side.