Head coach Matt Lloyd admitted his Cheshire Phoenix side lost the numbers game against Durham Wildcats as the team struggles to identify players to bolster their ranks.
In their first home game of 2013 in the BBL Championship the Phoenix started brightly, stretching a 20-13 first quarter lead over the Wildcats and looking capable of much more.
That continued into the second as the Phoenix opened up an 11-point gap, but Jerome Gumbs, Chez Marks, Shawn Myers, Gabe Haskins and Alif Bland, supported by just Chris Pearce from the bench, could not maintain the intensity required to keep battling for all the rebounds and on the stroke of half time the Wildcats took a one-point lead which they would never relinquish.
Coming out for the third quarter the Phoenix were a bit flat but the Wildcats came out firing, Keith Page and Mike Baldarelli in particular finding their range.
Bland (18pts), Gumbs (24pts) and Haskins (13pts) kept their scoring up but the Phoenix's problems winning rebounds and stopping shots proved their undoing.
By the end of the third Dave Elderkin's Wildcats led 66-59 but the Phoenix were about to have the wind taken out of their sails.
Early in the fourth Chez Marks (20pts) went for a three-pointer late in the shot clock and turned away in pain. He went to the floor and the referees called a timeout while he was moved off the court. With the extent of his injury unknown, it left the home side with only five players available.
While Marks was treated on the floor next to the table officials, the Wildcats took hold of the game and firmly established their winning position.
By the time their talismanic scorer had returned, his injury being a severely cramped calf, it was too late as the Wildcats managed the game clock to take the points and, crucially, the head-to-head in the league over the Phoenix, something which could prove crucial in the race for a playoff place.
Afterwards, Lloyd admitted the Phoenix's threadbare squad was finding it tough to cope without reinforcements.
“We came out well and played good defence and offence for most of the first half,” he said. “We missed having a game last week.
“The short rotation is having a massive effect on the game in terms of what we can do. Chez picked up some cramp in the fourth quarter and Chris (Pearce) came on and did a good job but if it had been more serious than cramp you're looking at future games, only having six players has been really tough.
“We are looking out there but we are quite limited in what we can provide to a new person coming in and we are quite specific in what we are looking for as well. It's about 50-50 that someone will come in.
“An area we really need to improve on is rebounding. If someone was to come in and give us more rebounds then that would be great.”
And having lost the head-to-head Lloyd warned that the Wildcats were definitely a danger to the Phoenix at the moment.
“They went to Plymouth on Friday and they won there, they took us at their place last time and they are playing good team basketball at the moment It is unfortunate to lose the head-to-head, especially as they are on this run and they are going to be clinching that final playoff berth where we are at the moment if we are not careful.”