John Lavery has laid down the gauntlet to his Cheshire Phoenix players to finish the season in a play-off position.

Nix head-coach Lavery has steered his side to sixth place in the BBL despite a poor start to their campaign.

The Nix have been in irresistible form over the past four months and have put themselves into play-off contention, with Lavery now targeting a top-five finish for his side.

“We had a really poor start to the season and that hampered us,” said Lavery, whose side qualified for the semi-finals of the BBL Trophy earlier this month with a 85-56 victory over the Bristol Academy Flyers.

“We brought some new guys in and they’ve hit the ground running.

“The guys  are fighting for each other on the court and supporting one another.

“I want  us to keep the momentum going now and make sure that we finish the season strongly, make the play-offs and secure a top-five finish. That’s our goal now.”

There is to be behind the scenes changes at  the Northgate Arena with Nix financial director Terry Hearfield announcing he will be stepping down from his role with the club at the end of this season.

Hearfield, who is also financial director of Frodsham-based building firm Aspect Construction, a sponsor of the Nix, is resigning due to increased work commitments away from the club.

Along with club chairman Andrew Donaldson, Hearfield played a key role in saving the rebranded Phoenix from extinction last year and has seen the team grow from strength to strength both on and off the court in the past 12 months.

“With a new addition to the Hearfield family last October and the continued growth of Aspect Construction, sadly, I no longer have sufficient time to dedicate to the running of the club,” said Hearfield.

“This club has an amazing following and a great many number of people dedicate an extraordinary amount of their time to its running – time which unfortunately I cannot afford to commit right now.

“Having been part of the group which rescued the club in 2012, I am very pleased to be leaving at a time when things really do seem to be on the up. We have had some very pleasing crowds at the Northgate in recent weeks and, based on our terrific on-the-court performance, I am confident that this will continue to be the case.

“I have met some incredible people during my time at the club and, as a relative newcomer, have been made to feel very welcome.”

Nix chairman Donaldson expressed his sadness at Hearfield’s imminent departure but thanked him for his role in helping to preserve professional basketball in Cheshire.

“Terry has been a fantastic guy to work with,” he said.

“When we were campaigning to drum up support to save this club he worked so hard to get people on board and it paid off in bucketloads.

“I am sorry that he is stepping down as he is a key part of the backroom team that has helped this club climb back towards the upper reaches of the BBL in such a short space of time.

“But we respect his decision and there will always be a place for him with the Phoenix faithful.”