Cheshire Phoenix coach Ben Thomas hopes that victory in the BBL Trophy final will propel his side to Play-Off glory.
The Nix won their first silverware since 2018 and their first BBL Trophy since 2004 on Sunday (20th March).
🏆 𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗠𝗣𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗦 🏆 pic.twitter.com/NlmDbEvLut
— Cheshire Phoenix (@CheshireNix) March 20, 2022
They battled to an 82-68 victory over the London Lions at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
Guard Larry Austin Jr. claimed the MVP award after a 23 point and 10 rebound double-double.
Opportunity for Play-Off glory
Thomas hopes that this success can drive his side towards even bigger prizes with the Play-Offs just six games away:
“This gives the players a taste of what it’s like, it gives them that winning feeling and once you’ve got it you want to get it again.
“We are going to use this as a tool to propel us forward. There are six games left of the regular season and then the Play-Offs.
“We really needed to give ourselves a boost at this point of the season and that’s what we’ve done”.
While Thomas recognised the strength of his side’s competitors, he was confident that Cheshire can challenge the best teams in the league for another trophy.
“We have proven that we are a very good team who can beat more or less anyone in the league.
“I think that Leicester are a very, very strong team this year but everyone is beatable on their day.
“We just have to take confidence from winning this game and we can go all the way, there’s no reason why we can’t.
“We will have to have some luck along the way but if we work hard and lock in there is no reason why we can’t go all the way”.
Phoenix are undoubtedly in good form as they enter the last leg of the season.
Cheshire lost seven of their first ten games in the BBL championship. However, in 2022 they have won seven of their 11 games and are fourth in the table.
Thomas claimed the slow start was due to a combination of injuries, illness and players adapting to each other.
However, he said: “since we figured all that out we’ve been playing really, really good basketball and the final was another example of that”.
“A great achievement”
Despite looking forward to the Play-Offs, Thomas was keen to emphasise the importance of what his team have already achieved.
After winning the club’s first BBL Trophy in 18 years he said:
“It’s absolutely huge. We are not one of the biggest budget teams in the league and it was a great achievement for us to even get to the final.
“To go and win it is a great achievement and it’s something that will be celebrated for the rest of this season and until next year”.
Paying back the supporters
Cheshire supporters made themselves heard during the game after making the long trip to Glasgow and contributed to a record crowd for the event.
We’ve lost count of the amount of messages we have had from people talking about how AMAZING you all looked and sounded on Sunday.
We would love everyone there to share their photos / videos in the comments below 👇 pic.twitter.com/yuF6wlWpVP
— Cheshire Phoenix (@CheshireNix) March 23, 2022
Thomas felt that the supporters deserved the victory after driving the team on in the final:
“That support was a big part of the reason why we won.
“We had a lot of fans there… they created an atmosphere that gave energy to the players and it was a great part of the day.
“Our fans have been great all year and, being at a final, regardless of the result they were going to have an amazing day.
“For the players to go out and win it for them and payback all the support that we get week in and week out was amazing.”
Thomas hopes that such a high-profile victory will encourage more people in the Cheshire area to get involved with basketball.
He believes the win has given the Nix a greater platform to draw the attention of potential fans:
“If we can grab some people’s attention, encourage them to come to the games and create new fans that will have been an amazing thing to do”.
Phoenix will bring the trophy back to the EPSV on Sunday (27th March) when they face the Surrey Scorchers.
The Play-Off final will be held on Sunday 15th May at the O2 in London.
Featured image by Jason Hughes, Merseysportlive