Gabe Haskins was singled out for praise by Cheshire Phoenix head coach Matt Lloyd as he looked forward to this Sunday’s big BBL Championship meeting at the Northgate Arena against Durham Wildcats.

Haskins, whose shooting has been up and down of late, stepped up when it mattered a fortnight ago to knock down a crucial two-pointer in the dying seconds at London Lions to seal a one-point victory for the Phoenix.

That result could prove crucial as the playoff picture develops over the next few weeks.

“We managed to grind out the result again against the Lions for the second time this season,” said Lloyd. “In all three matches that we have played against them it has gone down to the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

“We rebounded reasonably well and managed to go inside early but it was some crucial shots from Gabe, as well as Chez Marks’ scoring, which enabled us to come away with the win.”

Every game now counts for the Phoenix as a tight playoff race intensifies.

The Wildcats are looking to reach the BBL post season for the first time ever and a win at the Northgate on Sunday (5.30pm) will give them the head-to-head advantage, as each side currently holds one victory over the other.

Head-to-heads dictate league position if both teams finish level on points so whoever can secure a 2-1 record on Sunday will have a major advantage.

Last weekend the Phoenix were without a game, allowing their stretched squad a much-needed rest.

“The week off has had both positives and negatives,” said Lloyd. “We have managed to get some rest which is crucial as we are rotating a small squad of players, but we have worked hard to keep the intensity up at match level.

Former Cheshire guard Keith Page, now with the Wildcats, admitted his relief that they beat the Phoenix three weeks ago in the North East.

“It was satisfying because when we played them at the Northgate we had a really, really poor game,” he said.

“In the first half we kept it close but they blew us out in the second half.

“We just didn’t compete, so to avenge that loss was good because they’re challenging for the playoffs a well.

“But it would be massive for our franchise to get in the playoffs in our second year in the BBL.”