From brink of extinction to BBL Cup champions – the rise of Cheshire Phoenix

Mansoor Ahmed
Mansoor Ahmed

Back in 2012, the Cheshire Jets, riddled with financial woes, nearly folded as a professional franchise with then-owner Chester businessman Haydn Cook planning to release the club’s professional players from their contracts and investigate ways to run the Jets on an amateur basis.

After a social media outcry, the Jets were taken over by loyal fans and local businesses and rebranded as the Cheshire Phoenix, saving the team from sure extinction but with a long road ahead but a goal to return to the top.

Under six years later, the Phoenix defeated Worcester Wolves 99-88 in the BBL Cup final on Sunday in front of a passionate and loyal Cheshire following that have been following the team for years.

“I am absolutely made up for the Cheshire Phoenix organisation first and foremost,” Phoenix coach Ben Thomas said.

“Our fans are some of the best in the country. They have stuck with us after a couple of up and down years, but from the start of this season, they have always had our backs. They are always loud and proud. Every single player gave 100% when they were on the court and when you do that, this is the kind of result that you get.”

Orlan Jackman lifts the BBL Cup trophy. Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

It didn’t start off well for the Phoenix as Worcester drew first blood after the first quarter as a three-pointer from Wolves’ George Beamon secured a 25-21 advantage.

From there, it was all Cheshire. They edged ahead 41-40 at the half, then put on an offensive showcase in the third to take a 73-62 cushion and they never looked troubled despite Worcester’s best efforts.

“It was really hard but we have always taken on the underdog mentality,” said BBL Cup MVP Malcolm Riley, who led Cheshire with 26 points and nine rebounds.

“We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We knew this could be a good one and we got the job done.”

Cheshire can celebrate tonight. However, they now have a playoff spot to fight for. They occupy the eighth and final post-season season place but one thing is for sure: the rock-bottom days of 2012 are long behind them now.