Both of March’s monthly awards head to North West rivals, as Cheshire Phoenix’s Ben Thomas and Manchester Giants’ Tyrik Armstrong are recognized after a busy few weeks in various BBL competitions.
Thomas is awarded the Kevin Cadle Molten BBL Coach of the Month award for March after Cheshire lifted the BBL trophy in front of a record crowd at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, live on Sky Sports. Underdogs on the day against the London Lions, it was a historic win for the club as the club’s fifth BBL Trophy success, but the first since they won it four times in a row until 2004, with the coach Thomas in the stands as a supporter that day.
He nailed the team’s game plan on the day as his charges were aggressive at both ends of the court, holding the Lions – the league’s most prolific long-range shooters – to just 6-24 (25% ) in three-point shooting. while Phoenix attacked the rim and the glass, attempting 34 massive free throws and scoring 17 second-chance points. He was epitomized by his late addition to the team, Larry Austin Jr., who won the MVP award with 23 points and 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards and key snaps.
To open the month, they had set up that trophy final by spectacularly coming from behind to defeat Glen Luss Glasgow Rocks in the semi-final second leg. Trailing 12 from the first leg – a margin from which no team had come back in 27 previous such situations in this competition – they won the second leg by an emphatic 115-72 in front of a raucous crowd at Ellesmere Port Sports Village, a record margin for the second leg of any BBL game.
There was also a hefty 113-66 league victory at home to Surrey Scorchers to end the month, with Cheshire’s four American stars scoring 20 points as their visitors were blown away after a 12-0 opener.
Cheshire are currently fifth in the BBL Championship, still chasing the top four with four regular season games to play. They are the second-best team in offensive rebounds in the BBL (12 per game), while limiting opponents at least (8), two important factors in their wins in March; and, active defensively, they’re also second in the league in blocks (4) and third in steals (8).
Meanwhile, Manchester playmaker Tyrik Armstrong has won the Molten BBL Player of the Month award for March after the 5’10” Houston native continued his fine form as he led the Giants to a record 4-2 for the month.
In his six games, the Texas Southern University rookie professional averaged 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds per night, on incredible shooting splits of 58% from the field, 45% from three-pointers and 90% free. – throwing line.
Of particular note, the Giants had a six-day spell in which they beat perennial powerhouses Newcastle Eagles, Leicester Riders and London Lions in quick succession; and in the first, live on Sky Sports, Armstrong shot 9-10 (90%) from the field en route to a double-double of 23 points and 11 assists.
In the win over Leicester at the National Basketball Performance Center – a game Will Saunders remembered late in the game to win, and being the first of two ‘Retro Nights’ with the second live on Sky Sports this Friday – Armstrong scored an incredible 17 points in the fourth quarter and 10 in the final four minutes as the Giants came from six points behind to win it, avenging January’s BBL Cup Final loss to the league leaders .
He’s had two of his three career double-doubles in the month and has featured in the Weekly All-Star 5 eight times so far, most often with reigning Molten BBL player of the season Geno Crandall, having won weekly honors in two consecutive weeks in March.
As the central point of offense for the Giants, no player in the league has scored more baskets in the BBL Championship so far (144 field goals this season). Overall, he’s seventh in the BBL in points (17 per game) and assists (6), third in free throw percentage (82.9%) and one of only two top goaltenders. ten for field goal percentage (54.8%).
The Giants are well in contention for second place in the BBL Championship, and led by Armstrong, they held that spot for much of March despite the absence of England captain Dan Clark; currently third with a 13-9 record, in April they will face the first four rivals the London Lions and the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks.