LIONS suffered a hangover from their BBL Trophy semi final defeat against Plymouth Raiders as they went down 85-76 at Cheshire Jets on Sunday.
The defeat keeps Mike New’s men sixth in the table, but they missed their chance to close the gap on the top four going into a crucial run of league games.
They welcome third placed Leicester Riders to the Lions Arena this Friday night before visiting second in the table Worcester Wolves 24 hours later.
Indeed Lions’ next four games are all against current top six sides and these run of fixtures will surely go a long way to determining whether the city outfit have what it takes to challenge for a top four place and secure home court advantage in the play-offs.
Without the injured Daniel Northern and Adrien Sturt, Lions had flown out of the blocks as Howard Crawford had his way inside as the visitors led early. But Cheshire’s Bill Cole scored five points as his side nailed the final nine of the first quarter to lead 19-15 at the Northgate Arena.
Carl Josey had been instrumental in Lions’ drive in the first quarter and proceeded in the same manner in the second. However, Lions suddenly hit a drought, missing their next nine shots as nothing would go down, allowing the home side to lead 42-30 heading into the locker rooms at half time.
Jets continued to gradually extend their lead in the third quarter before Robert Youngblood came into his own and Benarius Bolds began to turn on the style.
Missing Northern and Sturt, Josey played no further part in the second half as Cameron Bernard and Chris Taiwah came off the bench to put in good shifts for their side. And the visitors bucked the trend to finish the quarter stronger with an 8-2 run clawing it back to 61-50.
But Jets’ Adam Brown instigated the crucial burst for his side, scoring five of seven unanswered points which looked to put the game beyond Lions’ reach at 72-54 with six minutes remaining
Nuno Pedroso hit from three, as did Stefan Gill, and all of a sudden Jets were scrambling. Gill then cut the deficit to six points with two minutes to play and a defensive stop gave them the ball.
But on a Jets steal, Bolds fouled out and the home side hit their free throws to close out the game.
Brown stole the limelight with a game high 31 points and 10 rebounds for the BBL’s top scorer, while Bolds scored 21 and 10 rebounds for the beaten Lions.
That defeat came seven days after Lions’ heartbreaking Trophy semi final second leg defeat to Plymouth, losing by only two points on aggregate after overtime.
But Lions must bounce back as soon as possible – and what better way than by beating fierce rivals Leicester. They visit the Lions Arena for the second time this term, having lost their Trophy group stage tie 107-90 back in October.
Lions’ only other victory in five against the Riders this season came in their last meeting in the east Midlands in January.
They then face Wolves for a second time on Saturday having won one and lost one against this season’s surprise package.