The Michael Ojo Show rolled into town and saved the Plymouth Raiders from defeat at the Northgate Arena as the gritty determination of the Cheshire Phoenix ensured they pushed their visitors to the limit.
Ojo was almost unstoppable, scoring 23 points by half time and 40 by the end of the game and he was the most potent weapon coach Gavin Love brought to Chester.
The returning Matt Schneck added 23 for the game but the Northgate crowd expected such a display from the big man.
But Schneck and his teammates owe a debt to Ojo, who time and again struck to end a Phoenix comeback and stretch out a lead for the Raiders.
For the home team the only real negative was the result. Missing point guard Gabe Haskins for the second successive game due to a suspected muscle tear in training, they were again forced to rely on a six-man rotation with new signing Stuart Thompson – the brother of former Newcastle Eagle and Mersey Tiger Andrew Thompson – and dropping into the line-up.
Phoenix coach Matt Lloyd did well to constantly rotate his stricken squad to give players as much rest as he could and offensively they were more than the Raiders could handle at times.
But where the limited numbers showed were on defence. Knowing there was little respite for them from the bench perhaps held a few players back from playing tough defence and that coupled with the form of Ojo ultimately told.
Chez Marks, so often the scoring leader, again took the mantle for the Phoenix and his execution was pretty good as he made 31pts for the game and took seven rebounds.
Shawn Myers was also on it with 20 points and Alif Bland, despite tough match-ups against Schneck and Andreas Schreiber, added 18.
While defence continues to prove a problem for the Phoenix, the signs are promising that they are capable of getting the results they need to cling on to a play-off spot and possibly spring a surprise in the BBL Trophy.
But that did not appease coach Matt Lloyd, who after the game was unable to hide his disappointment.
“We could never just get on a long enough run to get at them,” he said. “We were always struggling to get over the six-point gap. We got it down to two at one point but we just couldn't string enough stops together with our scoring ability to enable us to take the lead.
“Ojo hit 40 points and shot 90% in the first half. We tried different strategies to try and take him out of the game and at times it worked but we just didn't do it for 40 minutes. We missed Gabe to as he would have been a good match-up for Rob Brown so it would have been easier for us to match them man-for-man.”
Haskins' absence was keenly felt despite the Thompson's arrival, and Lloyd was keen to highlight the important player the young guard has become in his debut season.
“Missing your floor general in Gabe is big and we suffered on Friday against Glasgow not having him there and we suffered again tonight. He's coming back to fitness but we're taking it slow with him.”
“Stu has been a good addition for us, adding a six foot six frame who can play outside and inside if required. He will do a good job for us. It's taking a bit of time to bed him in but this is his first weekend with us and he will be a very good fit for us I think.”