It was a weekend of highs and lows that saw the Lions take on the Leicester Riders, who remain undefeated in the championship league. However the Lions battled through what was a tough encounter against the league leaders in a quarter-final cup round.
Led by Alex Owumi’s 17 points, the Lions prevailed in a 67-76 win advancing through to the semi-finals, where the Lions will face the Newcastle Eagles again in their next cup game.
Leicester Riders who have yet to face a loss in the cup and Championship league were dismantled by the Lions, as a well-oiled London team had four of their players finishing with double digits. Zaire Taylor and Kai Williams both contributed an impressive 16 points to back up Owumi as the offense fired on all cylinders.
With the cup win under the belt, the Lions travelled back home to the Copper Box Arena to welcome the Newcastle Eagles on Sunday afternoon in what would prove to be another challenging fixture for the semi-finalists.
The Lions started the game with confidence despite clearly showing signs of fatigue from the night before as a surprise guest watched on in attendance.
Singer-songwriter and Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon sat court-side during the fixture, impressed with what she saw despite only managing to see the first-half:
“We want to come back and support the team and watch the game properly because we didn’t get to do that today, but what I saw I was very impressed with and I was also very inspired.”
Dixon was at the arena as part of filming for a hidden talent TV show and vowed to return again:
“I didn’t get to see the whole match. It was good, from what I saw, but we need to come back”
The London Lions suffered their first home loss of the season, but Owumi as always, started the brightest for the Lions, opening the scoring with a corner two as a tightly contested first quarter ended 19-20 with the Eagles’, Darius Defoe adding 8 early on.
Straight to the second where it was evident that the Lions weren’t able to fend off the Eagles as their offence started to blossom and tick like clockwork, rallied by Deondre Parks who had 17 in the first half, the Eagles ran riot as Defoe (11) and Rahmon Fletcher (12) combined for 40 points in the first half.
Coach Nigel Lloyd expressed his feelings on the teams performance during the first half of the game:
“Considering that we played last night and we got back and played less than 24 hours ago I think we did well. My concern was in the first [quarter] we had a lot of energy but we couldn’t match their energy, but we felt good that after a game last night we were able to perform as well as we did in the 2nd half.”
Lions Defensive Woes
The Lions returned in the 2nd half with a view to shut down the Eagles’ hot shooters, but it proved difficult as Defoe continued to shine both offensively and defensively with multiple blocked shots on his tally.
Although the home side did find luck again with Lions star Owumi finding nothing but net again as Hassan also joined the attack, making assertive moves in the paint.
The Lions battled back within six points in the 3rd giving hope to the home side, but ultimately ended the quarter 11 points down. As the buzzer sounded for the 4th the Lions gameplan was simply to close down the lanes and stop the Eagles’ shooters, but as the Lions closed down 3-point shots, Defoe became unstoppable in the paint earning various lay-ups and slam dunks.
“We had a pretty bad first half, we didn’t play together as a team, in the second half we did pretty well, we had a good run in the 3rd and we tried to bring it back but I think we just ran out of gas.” Commented Alex Owumi who led all Lions scores with 20 points on the night.
Parks who dropped 28 points found room again hitting heartbreaking shot after shot as the Eagles shrugged of the Lions’ late surge to walk away victors finishing the game 81-88.
Despite the loss head coach, Nigel Lloyd was happy with his team’s performance and believes that after such a physical game it was still a great weekend for the Lions having progressed into the semi-finals of the BBL Cup:
“It looks good for us moving forward, Saturday was a huge factor it was a very physical game, our guys had some little nicks and pains but it was a big win to win at Leicester and progress to the semi-finals which we haven’t done in a long time so that was a big thing.”
The Lions now have a two week break to reflect and improve on the loss as they face the Manchester Giants next on the 25th.