LIONS are in desperate need of a victory on Sunday when they host Mersey Tigers, a week after falling to a seventh straight defeat which leaves them clinging on to a British Basketball League play-off place.
There was another full house at the Lions Arena, but that couldn’t inspire Mike New’s men to bounce back from a terrible February as they lost 95-90 to Guildford Heat, seeing the Surrey side leapfrog above them into seventh place.
Lions now occupy the final BBL Championship play-off place, and they will need to put a run of good results together very quickly just to make sure they hang on to that, with Mersey Tigers one of the sides eyeing up their top eight place.
Defeat to them could prove to be disastrous for Lions’ end of season play-off chances, but the city side have the edge over the north west side having beaten them earlier in the campaign – 80-87 away at the start of January – and on paper at least are favourites to win again.
But if the BBL table is anything to go by then Lions should have been good enough to beat Guildford last Friday night too.
The first quarter saw both sides trade baskets early on, but despite them getting Lion’s share of the ball, turnovers were proving costly for the home side. Ishmael Fontaine opened the scoring for Lions before Justin Dobbins and Demarius Bolds had the home side in front.
However, very poor ball retention from Lions throughout enabled the visitors to tie the quarter at 23-23 at the end of the period.
In the second quarter Lions held a slender one-point advantage at 31-30, but the visitors broke the game open with an impressive 16-0 burst to take the score out to 31-46 mid-way through on the back of six consecutive Lions turnovers.
Heat maintained their advantage for the remainder of the period as they headed into the locker rooms leading 40-54 at the half while the home side had committed an eye watering 19 first half turnovers.
In the third period Lions tried valiantly to close the gap and did so as they outscored Heat 24-18 to trim the deficit back to just eight points at 64-72 heading into the final stanza.
In the final period, the roof came off the Lions Arena as New’s men got themselves right back into the game thanks to a superb 20-2 tear to overtake the visitors and lead the contest 86-79 with less than five minutes left.
Dobbins and Stefan Gill – who would finish as Lions’ top scorer on 19 points – were both instrumental in the final period, but with just four turnovers so far in the second half, a further three in succession allowed Guildford to rattle off 12 of the next 14 points to take the lead again at 88-91 with only a minute to play.
A quick-fire score from Bolds got Lions to within a point at 90-91, but a Martelle McLemore three-pointer gave Heat a four-point advantage and they were able to hold on for the victory.