Phoenix too strong for battling Force side

Will Hall of Leeds Force
Will Hall of Leeds Force
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Leeds Force gave the world’s tallest professional basketball player a fright before eventually succumbing to the combined might of Cheshire Phoenix.

The presence of gentle giant Paul Sturgess, who at 7ft 7.26in is the second tallest living Englishman and tallest professional basketball player in the world, proved a sideshow as the seasoned Phoenix extended their strong season.

Sturgess may have made traditional beanpoles look like schoolchildren trying to steal sweets from the top shelf, but the former Harlem Globetrotter saw little actual game time as the Force were undone.

Former Great Britain Under-20s forward Will Hall led the charge for the Force, who for all the positive strides in their maiden season in the BBL, have still to string back-to-back wins together in the elite tier.

Having defeated Manchester Giants last Friday night, Leeds were unable to repeat the trick against their top-four opponents, despite their committed performance.

Force head coach Newby said: “I thought we were good defensively and on reflection the mistakes we made on offence which they capitalised on, was probably the difference.

“We can be very proud of our defence, even in the full court. But we had guys who make shots week in, week out, who failed to do so tonight.”

After scoring the opening basket through Ricky Fetske, Force quickly found themselves trailing 9-2 through a combination of Cheshire’s more ruthless finishing and their own failure to score.

Hall was Force’s biggest threat throughout, scoring eight consecutive points in the first quarter including a two-pointer that he had to loop over the head and telescopic reach of Sturgess.

Force were strong on their defensive rebounds, new YEP columnist Oliver Hylands a reliable exponent, while at the other end, he was a nuisance under the opponents’ basket as well.

At one stage, Leeds had reduced the arrears to just two points at 23-21 through a three-pointer from James McCann and two-pointer by Sam Attah when the chance had seemed lost.

But a 12-2 run saw Cheshire race into a 35-26 half-time lead with Hall again leading the Force resistance with their five points, three of which came from the free-throw line.

McCann got Leeds off to a strong start to the third quarter but Cheshire were able to pull away whenever Newby’s side got to within a score.

Down 15 points in the fourth, all seemed lost for Force, but a strong finish highlighted by a looping three-pointer from the Leeds side’s Branimir Mikulic and the quick feet of McCann, kept the outcome of the game right in doubt until the final minute.