London Lions clipped by Eagles
PUBLISHED: 08:23 12 December 2016
London Lions 80 Newcastle Eagles 87
A 30-point performance from BBL player of the month Rashad Hassan saw London Lions overcome a terrible first quarter and keep their BBL Cup hopes alive after a rollercoaster semi-final first leg at the Copper Box last night.
The Lions were without Jamal Williams, whose season has been ended by surgery to a torn nerve, and saw their shooting percentage fall to a woeful 15 per cent in a first quarter that saw them frustrated under the basket and behind the arc and trail 23-11.
Newcastle, who had been in action against Leicester on Friday, ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses of the home side and looked the clear favourites to face Glasgow in the BBL Cup final in January.
But the Lions refused to lie down and two beautiful steals from Zaire Taylor in the first three minutes of the second quarter, coupled with the Lions first successful three-point shot, gave the home fans hope.
Newcastle then inexplicably fouled Taylor twice on three-point shots and his four points from six shots helped him towards 19 overall.
A three-point shot from Kai Williams saw the visitor’s lead reduced to single digits, before a rally from Newcastle saw their lead back up to 13 at the half-time break, with Lions captain Joe Ikhinmwin bitterly complaining that the referee had stepped in front of him and prevented a deep two point shot on the buzzer.
Finding themselves 51-38 down at the midway mark and, having started third quarters poorly too often this season, Lions were determined to fight back, exploding out of the break with a 6-0 run that saw the visitors fail to score in two minutes as their lead was halved.
Shots for Hassan and Taylor and a three-point shot from Owumi saw Newcastle’s lead drop to four, but a timeout from the visitors and several easy buckets swung the momentum back their way, before it switched yet again with a lovely dunk from Ikhinmwin and points from Lockhart and Taylor.
That pulled Lions to within three points and tempers began to flare as Newcastle captain Fab Flournoy committed a hard foul on Andre Lockhart.
As Flournoy had to be restrained by other players, Owumi and Defoe both picked up unsportsmanlike fouls.
With the deficit at four points (68-64) at the end of the quarter, the Lions fans were roaring and Nigel Lloyd’s men started the fourth quarter in much the same way as they started the third.
A basket from Navid Niktash saw the lead reduced to two, before Ikhinmwin tied the game and, with 6.22 left in the game, a beautiful three-point shot from Kai Williams saw the Lions take their first lead of the game at 71-70.
But at this point, the Lions shooting accuracy deserted them and Newcastle quickly wrestled the lead back.
A three-point shot by Niktash saw the lead back down to three, before a missed shot from Taylor and two late buckets saw the visitors end the first leg of the semi-final with a seven-point advantage.
But Lions will feel confident going into the second leg in Newcastle on Friday, having already beaten the Eagles by a bigger margin on their court this season.
“They started off really good, in the second we stepped it up, they jumped back out, you know it’s just a game of runs, it is just the way it happens,” said Taylor.
“It’s about momentum and trying to keep it for as long as possible and trying to make theirs as short as possible and if we can do that right we can get the win.”
Hassan’s 30 points were a highlight and new boy Zak Wells rebounded well in his first foray into action, but League MVP Fletcher was sublime for Newcastle and the key at the end was 12 of Deondre Park’s 19 points coming in the final quarter.
Lions Scorers; Hassan 30, Taylor 19, Niktash 9, K Williams 9, Ikhinmwin 6, Owumi 5, Lockhart 2, Ashby 0, Wells 0, Moyo.
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