Surrey Scorchers 74-93 Cheshire Phoenix (20-24, 28-20 16-23, 10-26)
Scorchers – Martin 17, Wang 12, Steel 11; Phoenix – 25, Austin 17, Jack 14
It keeps their chances of a Trophy repeat alive, as Marcus Evans caused issues for the home team at Surrey Sports Park.
The exciting guard scored 25 while hitting 3/4 from the perimeter, notching four rebounds, six assists and three steals leading his team into the next round of the Trophy against the Sheffield Sharks.
The travelling Phoenix got out to an early lead. The Scorchers faithful at Surrey Sports Park knew the stakes and cheered loudly every time their team got a defensive stop, and they exploded when Josh Steel hit a three from the top of the corner to make it 9-17.
Steel’s teammate Ryan Martin got a pair of free throws, and Boban Jacdonmi received the ball when Cheshire’s defence collapsed on a driving Tayo Ogedengbe and threw it down for a big dunk to cut the deficit to four.
Maceo Jack and last week’s All-Star Five player Larry Austin settled the visitors’ nerves with buckets. Still, Surrey’s captain Ogedengbe – only recently returning from a long injury – showed no need to worry about his health status. He hit a huge step-back to keep his team within reach.
On the final play of the first quarter, Andrew Lawrence attacked the double team in pick-and-roll and got to the line, where he sunk two to keep the home side within four.
Surrey’s Shakem Johnson opened the scoring in the second quarter, finishing off a Lawrence assist after the point guard attracted multiple defenders in the lane.
Lawrence followed it up with an open three in the corner off a beautiful passage of play that saw every Scorcher touch the ball with quick passes on the drive and kick offence.
Padiet Wang finally took the lead for the Scorchers on a three, but Cheshire’s Will Neighbour hit one right back on the other end, and Lawrence tied it up at 30-30, taking the layup himself this time instead of dishing it off.
The Phoenix rose as Marcus Evans drove to find Jack in the corner. But it was tied again after another recent Scorchers’ returnee, Luke Busumbru, got into the lane and rose for a floater over some tough defence.
When Larry Austin attempted an interception at the halfway line on a Scorchers cross-court pass, Wang caught the ball, and it turned into a five-on-four advantage – he found Jacdonmi cutting baseline for another jam.
Jamell Anderson started to take the second quarter over. He got through the lane with good footwork for an easy open layup after juking the defenders.
He then got his hand in the lane on defence to tap the ball to David Ulph, and they kicked the ball ahead to a leaking Evans for an acrobatic layup in transition.
Anderson then cleared out in isolation and gave his team a long two with his foot on the three-point line.
The back-and-forth continued as the second quarter came to a close. A Cheshire turnover came to Lawrence, who quickly led a four-on-one situation.
Wang was the recipient of an open dunk, and he followed this up with an offensive rebound dunk off a Lawrence miss to inspire the home crowd into a Mexican wave as their team took a four-point lead into the half.
Cheshire Phoenix put the defensive clamps on the Surrey Scorchers to start the second half. But they moved the ball well on the offensive end, with Evans dishing to Neighbour for three.
Anderson drove hard and got the jump shot in the lane, plus a foul. Evans then found Neighbour again and put the visitors up three.
Surrey’s Ryan Martin ended this run with an offensive rebound and a dunk.
That play seemed to wake the home crowd up after returning to their seats following a visit to the concession stands, which inspired the players on the court.
When Cheshire’s Larry Austin saw his pass stolen by Padiet Wang of the Scorchers, he pushed the ball ahead to Andrew Lawrence, who attracted defensive attention and found Shakem Johnson for an open layup.
The Scorchers looked to Ogedengbe, who rose for another impressive three.
He and Anderson dove on the ball on the ensuing possession – it was retrieved by the Phoenix forward, but Surrey’s captain was clearly in total health and keen for competitive action.
Even on defence, Ogedengbe stayed with Cheshire’s Tahjai Teague as he danced in the mid-range. Teague got the shot off over the outstretched arms of his defender and made it fall, but it was excellent offence beating great defence.
Steel scored the 1,000th point of his BBL career on a couple of free throws, but Cheshire’s Amorie Archibald got a bucket to send his team into the final frame with a three-point lead.
Archibald kept scoring, this time from three, then Evans left off a horns double screen and hit a big three from the perimeter that opened up a nine-point gap to begin the fourth.
Unlike the share-first, multi-pass offence that helped the Scorchers earlier in the game, Surrey went towards one-on-one play that continued to make things difficult.
A few empty possessions later, Surrey coach Lloyd Gardner called a timeout to refocus his team.
Meanwhile, Cheshire picked up the team-first mentality and got Evans the ball in a pick-and-roll on the perimeter. The guard drove into the lane and jump-stopped to get a bucket and the foul that opened up a 14-point lead.
On a straight line drive for the Scorchers, Lawrence missed a layup, but Johnson mirrored the offensive rebound dunk that Wang converted earlier in the game. This roused the home crowd with just over six minutes to go.
Martin managed to follow this up with a tough reverse layup for Surrey, but they still trailed by 15 as the tension grew for both sides, leading to mistakes for each team.
With 20 points to his name, Evans was attracting plenty of attention in the dying minutes as Surrey attempted a late comeback.
Recognising this, he got into the lane and found a cutting Jack, who got the layup to go, and hit the follow-up free throw after being fouled in the act.
Evans put a dagger into the heart of Surrey in the closing 30 seconds by dancing at the top of the three-point arc and hitting a big three for his 25th point of the game to cap off a performance that keeps Cheshire’s Trophy repeat story alive.
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