Sorry Force fail to rise to Phoenix Trophy challenge

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Leeds Force crashed out of the BBL Trophy at the first round stage for the third year in a row as they went down 82-68 to the Cheshire Phoenix.

Despite an impressive display in the second half they were punished for a poor opening 20 minutes where the Phoenix did most of the damage.

The late charge showed signs of what could be achieved at the Carnegie Sports Arena but the opening display showed what is holding them back.

Despite having a full week’s preparation unlike their opponents it was a slow start as both sides struggled to find the basket with any regularity and the scoreboard struggled to tick over.

Cheshire set the agenda as the aggressors as they scored the first five points in the game before Rob Sandoval got the Force on the board with a big triple.

It didn’t get much better for the hosts in the first as they found the basket just three more times, scoring just eight points in the quarter.

The Phoenix didn’t struggle as badly as their hosts, scoring 21 points in the first 10 minutes with Jamell Anderson and Raheem May-Thompson doing the most damage.

A frustrated coach Matt Newby tried to galvanise his side for the second quarter but his strategy didn’t have the desired effect as the Phoenix pulled further away.

Leeds made hard work of their baskets as they added 12 points to their first quarter total but it didn’t come near Cheshire’s 23.

The Phoenix hunted in packs as they defended their basket resiliently. Coupled with fast breaks in transition play Leeds couldn’t handle their visitors.

A play that summed up what the Phoenix where about came as Anderson rebounded under his basket and launched the ball over the head of Disraeli Lufadeju to find May-Thompson who dunked the ball home.

The Force found their rhythm in the third as they found the basket with more regularity which brought the capacity crowd alive.

Eddie Matthew sunk three straight triples from the corner to kick start the Force in the game. Sandoval followed suit to make it four in a row for Leeds.

However they continued to struggle defensively as the Phoenix still kept their side of the scoreboard ticking over regularly.

A basket on the buzzer from Anderson made it a gap of 21 going into the last 10 minutes.

Leeds carried on their momentum and went on a run of 11 points which seen the deficit reduced to 14 with four minutes left on the clock.

A timeout derailed the Forces’ charge as the Phoenix went on a six point run which ended any chance of a comeback and making the draw for the seconnd round.

Andrew Hambleton.

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