BEN THOMAS declared himself “embarrassed” as Cheshire Phoenix were beaten 98-92 by rivals Manchester Giants.

The Giants arrived in Ellesmere Port without any of their American imports after they failed to receive FIBA clearance prior to the BBL Cup Group Two clash.

But that didn’t stop the visitors from taking a 26-21 first quarter lead, before they extended their lead at the midway stage to seven points by winning the second period 23-21.

Things failed to get any better for Phoenix, who were without Sehill Mouliom after he failed to receive clearance and Jalen Hayes through illness, as the Giants won the third quarter 27-17 to open up a 76-59 advantage.

Phoenix stirred into life in the fourth period, winning 33-22, but the damage had already been done and the Giants returned to Manchester victorious.

Head coach Thomas hit out at his team’s performance, saying: “I’m embarrassed, I really am embarrassed.

“This is a club that, first and foremost I am a fan of, then I’m the coach and I’m just not prepared to have that sort of performance, it’s just not on.

“We ran the bench a lot and those guys showed heart, and that’s what we need to play with.”

Asked whether there was complacency from Phoenix given the Giants’ selection issues, Thomas was left with mixed emotions.

He said: “There was no complacency from me and the coaching staff, there was no complacency in the message to the players before the game.

“Whether they thought it was going to be easy or not, you just can’t tell. The performance probably suggested there was a little bit of complacency and they thought it was going to be easier than it was.

“Credit to Manchester, they’ve got a team that are prepared to work hard for each other, to put their bodies on the line and that’s what is going to get wins, so I can’t credit Manchester enough.”

Thomas felt the absence of Mouliom and, in particular, Hayes, was pivotal to Phoenix’s performance.

“When you are missing key players it’s always going to mess up rotations and that sort of thing,” he added. “The thing we missed was Jalen’s energy, whether he makes mistakes or does great things, his energy is unbelievable, and we need guys like that.”

Kahron Ross was Phoenix’s leading performer with 26 points, while Disraeli Lufadeju impressed off the bench with 19.

Manchester’s star men were Jordan Whelan (24) and Alex Ouandie (23), leaving head coach Danny Byrne delighted.

Asked whether anyone in British basketball would have expected the Giants to win without their four American players, Byrne said: “Absolutely not, no. I think it’s an unbelievable result.

“The guys knew their backs were against the wall and we were certainly hunted rather than the hunters coming into the game and credit to the guys who have dug deep and got us over the line.”

In Group Three, Newcastle Eagles won a high scoring game at Leicester Riders 102-96 and Sheffield Sharks defeated London Lions 70-61.