Cheshire Phoenix and Glasgow Rocks will both look to bounce back from losses last weekend when they meet in BBL Championship action at Northgate Arena on Sunday.
Phoenix went down against Newcastle Eagles on Sunday, and are now eighth in the table with a 5-8 record, while Rocks’ home loss against leaders Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders leaves them in sixth place with a 6-4 record, but with games in hand over the sides above them.
Phoenix forward Phil Brandeth is expecting a tough game against the Rocks: “They are a team that has been around for a number of years and have a strong core group of players such as Gareth [Murray], Sterling [Davies] and EJ [Harrison] they always come out and play hard and play for the full 40 minutes with no lapses.
“Their key players are a fit EJ and Gareth Murray. I know Gareth personally from his time spent in Chester and I know what he can do and when he’s playing well he’s really hard to stop. We will have to respect his outside game as he is a proven shooter and all round force for the rocks. EJ also is a great veteran of the league and on any nights can have a double-double and score high.”
Cheshire acting coach Matt Lloyd agrees with Brandeth: “They are a very experienced team with a good mix of new and experienced players, they have had a really good month and strung together a good run of victories against top opposition and will prove to be a difficult test for us.
“Rocks have a very experienced line up, in EJ, Gareth and Sterling that can all provide the team with some good leadership both on and off the court and can still have a massive impact on the game. Personally we know we have to be aware of these players but also keep [Donald] Robinson quiet.
Lloyd was pleased with his side’s performance as they split last week’s games with Mersey Tigers and Newcastle Eagles: “I think the team did a good job on Tigers particularly without Chez [Marks], we came out a little slow but soon got in a rhythm and started to hit our shots and by playing some tight defence we managed to limit them to six points in the first quarter. I think the team as a whole played well but if I had to put a stand out performance it would have to be Jerome Gumbs, to get off a plane Thursday morning and have one training session and be able to integrate into the system like that shows his good ability and expertise he has in this league.
“Against Eagles, the guys played well for about two and half periods we managed to get [Joe] Chapman out the game early as he picked up two fouls, and limited him to ten points but Charles [Smith] really hurt us in the first four minutes hitting those three pointers. We again had a few players who stood out Gabe Haskins had six assists, Alif [Bland] had a double-double along with Shawn [Myers] and an injured Chez managed to hit 20 points. Kareem Maddox really hurt us with his massive double-double, it was no surprise that he has been given [Molten] player of the month with the stats he has been averaging this month.”
After Cheshire’s recent off-court problems, Lloyd admits that it’s a relief to know the club’s future is safe: “To be secure it’s a great feeling and the team as whole is very positive of what it will bring. The guys within the changing room have only ever been thinking about playing and trying to get as many wins as possible it has been down to the joint efforts of all the parties involved off the court in securing the club.”
Rocks’ player-coach Sterling Davis admires how Phoenix have coped with their problems this season: “They have dealt with a lot of adversity this season but they seem to be finding a way to string together some wins as of late.
“I think Chez Marks deserves a lot of credit for the task he has taken on with such short notice. It’s not an easy thing to do especially going in it blind.”
The Rocks split their games last weekend, winning at Manchester Giants before seeing their five game winning streak come to an end with a home defeat against BBL Championship leaders Jelson Homes DMU Leicester Riders, and Davis was disappointed with his side’s performances:
“I thought we put on a rusty performance that game. Having another week layoff I expected the lack of sharpness to be a factor. Manchester are tough at home so we also knew it would be a tough task to come of there with a win.
“I thought Devin Bailey really stepped up for them with Aliu out. That’s probably the best I have seen him shoot the ball since he has been in the league.
“The Riders have a very good team. They have a great amount of size and versatility which caused us some problems. In the final quarter we were not able to respond to their defensive pressure and as a result we only put six points on the board.
“Anthony Rowe has really come out with a mission to prove his doubters wrong. I think that was a great pickup for Leicester.”
Rocks guard/forward Andrew Wedemire is wary of the Phoenix: “They are a good team that is looking to put together a few game win streak, with Chez Marks and Shawn Myers probably their key players.”
Wedemire also commented on last weekend’s two games: “Donald [Robinson] really stood out for us against Giants, he played extremely well at both ends of the court. Devan Bailey had a great game for them and I believe he didn’t miss a three pointer in the game.
“We played fairly good against the Riders but a poor fourth was our downfall. Robinson had another great game for us. Anthony Rowe played really good for them causing a lot of problems.”
Finally, Phoenix captain Chez Marks is ready for a difficult game against Glasgow: “We know that Rocks are a strong and talented team. They have great experienced veterans such as EJ Harrison and Sterling Davis. We must contain EJ – he is an unbelievable player and keep Sterling off the boards because he is very strong and physical. As for Gareth Murray we cannot let him get hot, if so it’s going to be a long night.
“We played really well against Tigers. We did everything that I expected. They were without their key player so I am sure he would have made a difference but other players stepped up to the challenge. Chris Bigley did a fantastic job against us. We played so-so against The Eagles but the weathered the storm and went on a run and came away with the win. Charles Smith and Maddox played very well against up. Its great that we have secured the club and now we can concentrate on basketball.”