Surrey Scorchers 66 – 76 Cheshire Phoenix (23-12, 39-32, 54-64)
Scorchers – Johnson 16, Jacdonmi 11, Wang 10; Phoenix – Austin 23, Jack 14, Neighbour 11
Bristol Flyers 71 – 93 Caledonia Gladiators (19-19, 38-39, 51-72)
Flyers – King 21, Watson-Gayle 17, Samuels 13; Gladiators – Sloan 27, Onwas 20, Adams, 16
Surrey Scorchers entertained Cheshire Phoenix as the two sides battled it out for the second time in the BBL Championship regular season. Their previous encounter – back in September – witnessed Cheshire coming out on top, behind Jamell Anderson’s 22 points (8-17 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 4-4 FT).
For Lloyd Gardner’s Scorcher side, revenge was on the cards, as Surrey have struggled to scrape a win amidst a plague of injuries, including high-motor guard Josh Steel, ruling him out for tonight’s game.
For the home supporters, many eyes were set on South Sudanese international Padiet Wang, whose impressive playing form – averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, five assists, and 35 playing minutes in his previous two games – presents an issue for all BBL sides.
In addition, Scorchers unveiled returning American guard Quincy Taylor, who arrives to help get the Southwest side back on track. His third stint in the BBL, Taylor knows a thing or two about closing out tense games.
As for the Cheshire Phoenix, Head Coach Ben Thomas commented on his side’s two consecutive defeats heading into the Surrey match-up, explaining:
“We’re a new team – we are not happy with the start we’ve had, but we will put it right. It is going to be a battle”.
Unsurprisingly, Wang put on a show straight from the tip-off, completing a picturesque transition dunk to give Surrey the advantage followed shortly by a corner three by forward Charleston Dobbs. Phoenix responded with a confident triple courtesy of Anderson.
A Taylor three-point conversion late in the first quarter got the home crowd going. Tennessee St. alum and BBL Rookie Shakem Johnson made an impression coming off the bench, adding 8 points in little over four minutes of court time to close off the first quarter.
Speedy guard Larry Austin, Cheshire’s second leading scorer, provided a handful of crafty baskets, beginning with an all-net three-point conversion from an Anderson kick-out pass. Next, Austin turned on the jets, weaving through the Scorchers defence for a strong layup to energise a trailing Phoenix team.
A strong inside move by Cheshire centre Will Neighbour followed by a pair of Austin steals and transition layups cut the game to within single digits. With 20 seconds to go, it was an exchange of perimeter three-pointers between Dobbs and Phoenix guard Marcus Evans that capped off a thrilling end to the first-half, Surrey maintaining a slim lead.
Phoenix continued to add to its 11 steals accumulated in the first half. Austin, once again, spearheaded Cheshire’s transition offense, visiting the free-throw line on numerous occasions in the process, cutting Surrey’s advantage to just a single point mid-way into the third.
Six total visits to the free-throw line for the Phoenix helped establish a 10-point advantage over the Scorchers, emphasised by a Neighbour three-pointer – characteristic of the 6’10” big man – as the game entered the final period, the Nix up by double figures.
Despite a ruthless defensive display by Cheshire, Surrey centre Boban Jacdonmi made his presence felt in the low block, reaching double figures in scoring, while Taylor’s unselfish offense gifted him with 9 assists.
Unable to contain an energetic Phoenix offense, including a BBL career-high 14 points for newbie Maceo Jack, Scorchers were outmatched, but were cheered on every step of the way by a lively Surrey Sports Park crowd.
Cheshire’s victory also saw Austin’s first double-double this season, tallying 23-points (9-12 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 4-6 FT), 12 rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
In the second game of Saturday’s BBL action, the Bristol Flyers welcomed Caledonia Gladiators, marking game one of Caledonia’s Southwest double-ticket, as they square off against Plymouth Patriots tomorrow.
Caledonia, who entered the game with a 2-2 record for the season, looked to rookie David Sloan, who came off the back of a 36-point display in Caledonia’s road victory over the Leicester Riders last week.
Tragically, Thomas Bell III, one of Bristol’s most prolific players so far this season, took a knock in the opening minutes, and did not return to the floor having sustained a hip injury. We wish him a speedy recovery!
With six lead-changes in the opening quarter of the matchup, it is safe to say both teams started strong. The Gladiator guard duo of Sloan and Jacksonville St. alum Darian Adams got things started for the visitors, while VJ King‘s perimeter shooting paired with Malcolm Delpeche‘s high-flying dunks and defence got the home court fired up.
Virtually neck-and-neck, both sides continued to trade baskets. Corey Samuels, a fan-favourite in Bristol, found his shooting range early, coming off the bench to amass nine points with just a single miss recorded.
A very physical back-and-forth fixture, Jeremiah Bailey blossomed for the Gladiators in the first half, leading the team with 13 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. As for the Flyers, King persisted to get down-hill, treated to a handful of free-throws while also collecting eight rebounds.
Yet another nail-biter, the halftime whistle sounded with Caledonia ahead sporting a single-point lead over Bristol.
An early burst for Caledonia, featuring a three-point sink by
Prince Onwas and a Sloan transition lay-up off a Bailey steal, put the Gladiators firmly in front, forcing a Flyers timeout.
Striking again, Caledonia’s Sloan displayed his shooting prowess, knocking down consecutive perimeter shots, helping to increase their lead significantly over Bristol, up 15 mid-ways into the third quarter.
A massive chase-down block by King reignited the SGS College Arena, but it was Caledonia centre Patrick Tape that began to put on a show, notching double-figures in points, without a miss from the floor.
Despite some push-back by the Flyers with well-worked buckets from Jelani Watson-Gayle, the Gladiators maintained an efficient shooting performance, Onwas putting on a huge performance off the bench, putting up 20 points (8-8 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 1-3 FT), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block.
An incredible performance by Caledonia, the Gladiators dominated the second half of play, culminating in a 22-point victory, as they prepare to take on Plymouth Patriots in tomorrow’s fixtures.