London Lions miss out on BBL Cup final spot
PUBLISHED: 11:13 17 December 2016
Newcastle Eagles 89 London Lions 82 (176-162 on aggregate)
A 40-point partnership between Zaire Taylor and Rashad Hassan wasn’t enough to secure a BBL Cup final appearance for the London Lions in the north east last night.
The Lions travelled to Newcastle needing an eight point victory to overturn Sunday’s home leg defeat and for a while it seemed like they might well do it.
The visitors - whose sluggish start caused problems at the Copper Box - exploded out of the traps, putting away nine unanswered points in the first two-and-a-half minutes.
As Hassan made a beautiful jump shot, Newcastle looked shell-shocked and Sports Central was quiet, save for the Lions fans who sensed that, after waiting 13 years to win at Newcastle, a second away win of the season was on the cards.
However the Lions clinical start to the game quickly fell away as they struggled to make shots and the Eagles defence woke up.
As the first quarter drew to a close the Eagles bought it back within three, but a three-point shot from Alex Owumi saw the Lions build the lead back up to seven points at 26-19 as the fight for a final place was back on.
The second quarter started as the first had ended, with a three-point shot that saw the Lions lead go into double figures.
But the sloppy turnovers and inconsistent play had also continued and by the time Hassan returned to the bench with his third foul, the Lions lead was down to three.
The Eagles were suffering foul trouble of their own, however, spending just under half of the second quarter in the penalty.
But the Lions failed to exploit this, choosing to shoot from behind the arc rather than force fouls by driving to the basket.
Their three-point shot deserted them, though, and by the time the first half was over, the Lions had taken just seven free throws and made just six of their 17 three-point attempts.
The Eagles had made five of their three-point shots from just 11 attempts, but the Lions were not beaten yet and a quick two points from Taylor, followed by three from Navid Niktash and it was back to a one-point game.
A quick steal by Newcastle and a missed deep two from Niktash and the Eagles lead was back to six and they extended that to nine.
Despite valiant attempts by London, the difference remained stubbornly hovering around that mark going into the final two minutes of the quarter, but Taylor and Hassan got to work and rallied the Lions to within two points going into the break.
But even a tie on the night wouldn’t be enough for the Lions who needed to overturn the Eagles’ seven-point lead and as the fourth quarter got underway, the gas in the Lions tank simply ran out.
A small rally towards the end of the quarter restored some pride, but as Darius Defoe dunked the ball with the seconds ticking away the Eagles had booked their place to face Glasgow in Birmingham.
The Lions next travel to Leicester on Wednesday, before returning to the Copper Box to face the Sheffield Sharks on December 30.
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