December 12 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe at the Copper Box
Saturday, September 28, 2013
BBL Championship: London Lions 80 Manchester Giants 75
London Lions survived a nervous final quarter to see off Manchester Giants last night and start the new British Basketball League campaign and life at the Copper Box with a victory.
As promised, head coach Vince Macaulay loaded his team with players from the capital – seven in all – but only three new signings took to the court as work permits for their three new American signings have not yet been granted.
That will see London travel to Plymouth Raiders tomorrow three men light but they can take heart from the fashion they ground out two league points to share early joint leadership of with Sheffield and Newcastle.
Former Eagles forward Joe Ikhinmwin – recruited in the off-season – shared the spotlight on his debut with guard lynchpin Rob Brown as they both racked up 22 points, while new face Julius Joseph used all his experience to help steer the Lions to victory after Giants had chipped ruthlessly away at a 20-point lead established early in the third quarter.
Up until that point London had bossed the preceedings as Brown’s opening bucket of the new Copper Box era was followed by a crowd-pleasing dunk by Ikhinmwin.
While the 18-15 first quarter scoreline didn’t suggest an overwhelming dominance by the hosts the second saw them take control, but only once Keith Page had momentarily put Manchester in front for the first and only time in the opening exchanges.
Three points from Brown signalled a swift return to order and the start of a period dominated by the diminutive playmaker.
That spurred on Ikhinmwin in particular as he came back off the bench midway through the session to impose himself and lay siege to the Giants basket from close range.
But once Joseph had nailed a shot from outside the key, the ex-Newcastle forward, 12 years his junior, showed his ability from distance too, moving the Lions’ lead out to 40-24, forcing the Giants to call a hasty time out.
They couldn’t reduce the arrears and London went into the half time interval 47-31 in front.
It was more of the same from the restart as Ikhinmwin stole the ball and drove to the net before Brown edged his side over the half ton mark and into a 20-point cushion.
When the Lions forward was subbed for short-term signing Paul Guede it sparked a run of three unanswered baskets for Manchester that saw Ikhinmwin quickly return to make an immediate impact once again, claiming a rebound bucket from a free-throw.
But the third quarter ended 61-50 and the break did little to stop the Giants’ momentum, led by imposing forward Rob Marsden who seemed to sink everything that came his way.
Guard Stefan Gill was also enjoying a scoring purple patch and it was no surprise that the visiting pair finished as Manchester’s top scorers with 16 and 12 to their names respectively.
Two quick-fire baskets from Gill drew his side to within three points of a stunned Lions (64-67) and when Guede threw a loose pass off the court all of London’s mojo appeared to have evaporated.
Coach Macaulay called a time out with 6.16 minutes on the clock and though Giants narrowed the deficit to one point, home captain Mike Martin finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about with a much-needed two points.
Those roars for the Lions got louder as a Brown alley-oop was slammed home by Ikhinmwin for the play of the night.
London couldn’t shake Giants off but a rebound at either end by Adrien Sturt eased the pressure and when Manchester guard Yorick Williams wasted two shots from the line – helped by Brown stoking up the Copper Box crowd – the hosts could see the finish line.
In desperation the visitors’ penalty count rapidly increased and James Jones’ night ended prematurely when he was fouled out.
Julius showed his experience to twice return from the line with a maximum haul - the second opening up a five-point gap with 13.8 seconds remaining - and as Giants pushed Brown stole the ball and broke unchallenged to set up Sturt who dunked at the buzzer for a perfect finale.