BBL Cup: Leicester 72 London Lions 63
- Credit: Archant
London Lions let a lead slip as Leicester Riders took their place in the BBL semi-finals with a come-from-behind victory after an unlikely second-half turnaround.
Fans had seen this match-up almost like the final with two of the most dominant teams in the last two seasons going head to head at the Leicester Arena.
Alioune Tew registered first for the Lions before Nelson-Henry returned the compliment, but every other Lions' starter scored as Brandon Peel's bucket made it 11-2 after five minutes.
Riders called a timeout, but that didn't stop the Lions flow as captain Joe Ikhinmwin drained a triple from the centre.
At 18-4, Ward-Hibbert scored for Riders as they attempted to gain a foothold, but by the end of a blistering first quarter, the score was 20-11 to the Lions, who were feeling like they should have probably had more points on the board.
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The Lions were forcing turnovers all over the court as Riders struggled for a rhythm and Tew dunked to start off the second quarter.
And it was much of the same, as Peel made it 29-13 with 4.26 remaining and the largest lead of the game came at 35-17 before the home side put together a pointer to the second half with an 8-4 run making the half time score 39-25.
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Cartwright opened proceedings for the Riders and Justin Robinson replied with a floater but from there the Lions went 0/6 on jump shots whilst the Riders went 6/7 to turnthe game on it's head despite a Lions timeout.
Jules Dang-Akodo tied the game at 43-43 but again the Lions missed their next six attempts, including three turnovers and an unsportsmanlike, but still the game was on as Jordan Whelan cut the deficit to 47-45 with 1.32 to play in the third.
The home side could only add a solitary free throw to end the third up 48-45, with the visitors scoring just six points in the quarter.
As the game ebbed and flowed, the lead was still two points at 53-51 with six minutes left, from where Andy Thomson hit for the home side but Whelan responded with a strong drive but was then called for a technical foul.
The free throws administered and Peel made it 57-55 as the tension rose but the game was then to change dramatically and swing to the home side, as Joe Scott came off the bench to hit three threes in one minute which, despite scores from Peel and Ikhinmwin, put daylight between the teams at 66-59 with just over three minutes to play.
Allen-Jordan was blocked at the rim as both teams scrambled and neither side could score until Cartwright hit in the lane and the lead was nine points and the game virtually over.
The Lions would not score until there was only 42 seconds left, when the home side were celebrating an unlikely turn around and a place in the last four against the Worcester Wolves.
Disappointed Lions coach Vince Macaulay said: "We didn't really deserve anything from the game after that second-half effort. We had stuck to the game plan like glue in the first half and at half time we expected exactly what happened, shots to drop, the home rub of the green and their big names to try and go for it.
"We showed some naivety on defence but a lot of hurriedness on offence, We had to dig our heels in and didn't, we didn't lose to anything we hadn't prepared for, but when the lights are on you need to stand up."
The Lions now give up one of their trophies and will turn to the start of the BBL League season next weekend when they entertain Glasgow Rocks at the Copper Box on Sunday December 8 at 4pm.