The delicate house of cards the Cheshire Phoenix built to salvage something from this tumultuous season came crashing down at the English Institute of Sport – but travelling fans were quick to express their pride in the players.
On arriving in Sheffield for the second leg of the BBL Trophy semi final against the Sheffield Sharks news began to filter through that while the Nix were missing Jerome Gumbs, who was still to ill to play, they would also be missing top scorer Chez Marks after a family bereavement saw him return home to Kentucky.
It meant that the Nix, trailing by 14 points from the first leg, had only Gabe Haskins, Alif Bland, Shawn Myers, Chris Pearce, Stuart Thomson and young England under 20 international Jamal Tahraoui available, with head coach Matt Lloyd also suited up in case he was needed.
A hardy band of travelling fans brought the noise from minute one and although the Nix showed flashes of great play, the numbers game killed them early as the Sheffield Sharks went in hard knowing they could get their rest from the bench at any time.
Tough defending from both sides saw the opening quarter scoring stay pretty low and a couple of times the Nix led the game, but the Sharks simply brought in a fresh face and raised the intensity.
In the second quarter Lloyd put Tahraoui on the floor and the fresh-faced forward showed exactly why his coaches rave about him as he put up a creditable four points as the Nix tried to stay in touch with their hosts.
But as the lead stretched to 10 points on the night and 24 on aggregate, the tie was getting away from the Nix. The harder they tried, the more the Sharks could use their pacey guards to catch them on the break or pop up a three pointer, while Mike Tuck and Demetrius Jemison bullied Bland in the paint.
By half time the Sharks had built a 20 point lead and for the Nix to launch a successful comeback, to turn around a 34 point deficit, would have been the greatest result in the history of the BBL.
It wasn't to be as the Nix showed both the best and worst of their play this season. At times Thomson, Haskins and Bland got the bit between their teeth and worked their plays with aggression and power while Pearce brought his unending enthusiasm and drive and Myers popped up in all the right places.
But at other times there were too many passes, passing out of a sure-fire shot to give a player a three-point opportunity that then missed.
It was a time to focus on the positives however, as the tie was well beyond reach. The Nix never gave up, ran hard until the end and left everything they had out there even when they were chasing an impossible result in the late stages of the fourth quarter.
Thomson top-scored for the Nix with 19 points as the Nix finished 102-74 down, an aggregate deficit of 42, and after the game the fans who had braved roadwork delays and traffic congestion to cross the Pennines in support of their team showed their appreciation for the efforts of a team hamstrung by the absence of their two best players who did everything they could to try and reach the final.
“We were down two of our leading scorers,” said Lloyd after the game. “Chez had to go home and send our thoughts and condolences to Chez and his family at this difficult time.
“Jerome is still ill, there's nothing we can do in terms of illnesses. The guys that were here did a fantastic job, they stayed in it for the full 40 minutes and yes we trailed by 28 points at the end of the game but looking at the stat sheet there's not really much negative across that so they haven't done a bad job.”
Lloyd also offered praise for Tahraoui, who came in in difficult circumstances and impressed.
“Jamal did a great job. Before he went in I said to him 'don't do anything that you wouldn't do normally, just stay in your usual game, make that pass and defensively I need you to play hard' and he did, he did a great job.
“He's not in the last selection of the England team for nothing, he's a talented player.”
The same players are likely to be asked to travel to Surrey Heat on Sunday as Lloyd turns his focus to the final seven BBL Championship games and the only prize still available, however tough it may be, to the Nix – the play-offs.
“Chez isn't back with us until the early part of next week, Jerome we will assess as it is a day-by-day thing to see how he is but we've got to bounce back, we've got to come together and put it behind us.
“This is a completely different competition, we've got to focus on our league now. We have seven games left in the league and that is what we have to concentrate on.
“The play-offs are our aim now, there are 14 points up for grabs and we have to play some teams around us, we have to come to Sheffield again and they have to come to us so there's four points on offer there so we've just got to stay in it as best we can for these last seven games.”