Akeem Ellis believes that Cheshire Phoenix ’s third-quarter meltdowns are a mental obstacle his side can overcome.
Having gone toe-to-toe with a very strong Leicester Riders team on Sunday night and being level after the first and second quarters, Cheshire’s third-period woes reared their head once more at the Cheshire Oaks Arena.
And with the club heading into a key period in the BBL, with play-off places likely to come down to the wire, New Yorker Ellis knows that he and his side have to address their deficiencies in the third if they are to make it to the post-season knockout.
“Every time the third quarter kills us, we come out really sloppy,” said Ellis, who hit 29 points in the defeat by the Riders.
“I don’t know what it is because these good teams like Leicester and Newcastle, these top-of-the-line teams are coming out ready to execute, push the ball and get the lead up.
“I can’t put my finger on it but I do think that it is a mental thing and, more than that, we have to execute better down the stretch. In the third quarter, we had a few shot-clock violations which meant we didn’t get into our sets, it’s about execution for us, definitely, but we’ll get it together.”
The Nix face a crunch home encounter with Glasgow Rocks at the Cheshire Oaks Arena on Sunday (5.30pm tip) and have the opportunity to gain some ground on the Scottish side and claim what could be a hugely valuable head-to-head.
And Ellis, who has been one of Cheshire’s star turns this season since making the move from Canadian NBL side Brampton A’s, says that the coming games offer the chance for his side to string together a sequence of good results, something that has evaded them thus far during the current BBL campaign.
“There is a big chance to get some momentum right now and put a few Ws together, that’s our aim right now,” said the shooting guard.
“Even though we had a tough loss (on Sunday), our aim is to go out there and compete and pick up wins so that we can be good in that play-off race. We have just got to get over the hump. We win one, lose one and we need to find a way to put some wins together.
“The crowd is our sixth man. I love when the crowd is here and I love when they bring that energy, it really helps us in tough times when we are down in the game. After a big bucket or a big defensive stop, the crowd just lifts us and energises us. The crowds have been amazing right now and hopefully they’ll come out on Sunday too.”