A sixteen-point comeback in the last seven minutes by Cheshire Phoenix at Ellesmere Port Sports Village inflicted a heartbreaking 100-94 BBL road defeat on Leeds Force.
An emphatic opening saw Justas Rimkas explode to the rim with a pair of sensational baskets, as Leeds leaped into an early advantage against their cross-Pennine rivals.
BBL semi-finalists Cheshire bounced back instantly, charging ahead with a quick-fire seven-point salvo as the momentum gradually began to shift in the home side’s favour.
A towering alley-oop slam from Tavarion Nix and an Eric Curth three earned Leeds a five-point lead after 10 minutes as the road team continued to lay siege to the Phoenix defence. Former Force threat Rob Sandoval breathed life into Phoenix’s attempted comeback, combining with GB international Orlan Jackman as Cheshire hauled themselves within three in a back-and-forth fixture.
Leading the line, captain Samuel Toluwase’s vital four-point burst snapped Phoenix’s offensive spree as Force surged into a deserved eight-point half-time lead. Momentum swang Cheshire’s way as Phoenix applied third-quarter pressure, narrowing Leeds’ advantage to three as Sandoval began to heat up offensively.
In need of a shining light, Bennett emerged with an incredible string of baskets, launching Leeds back into a nine-point advantage with an unstoppable 15 point third-quarter performance as Cheshire began to wilt under pressure. Three straight triples from Toluwase, Curth and Aidan Appleyard to open the final 10 minutes left Cheshire’s hopes of victory hanging by a thread, as a rampant Force oozed endless attacking quality.
Undeterred, an eight-point burst saw Phoenix narrow the lead to eight as a fatigued Force began to stutter.
A Jackman treble sparked the unlikeliest of comebacks, as a devastating 16 points in four enthralling minutes rocketed Cheshire level and decimated Leeds’ lofty lead in a flash.
Showing no remorse for his former employees, the cold-blooded Sandoval claimed a first Cheshire lead of the half with an astonishing three as a shell-shocked Force were left stunned.