Lions get stuck between Rocks and hard place

LIONS travel to rivals Leicester Riders on Saturday in a BBL Cup first round tie, and will be hoping to make amends for losing their Championship curtain raiser against Glasgow Rocks last weekend.

The long trip north proved fruitless for Lions as they crashed to a 118-88 defeat at Kelvin Hall on Sunday, not aided by no less than 22 turnovers.

Mike New’s men now have to wait until the first week of November for their next British Basketball League Championship outing, with Cup and Trophy games now back on the agenda.

Lions take on Leicester for a third time already this season having won once and lost once in their BBL Trophy group ties, with the city side coming out the better of the two sides to all but confirm a place in the semi-finals.

They will guarantee their spot in the last four if they avoid a heavy defeat at London Leopards on Sunday, but it’s the Cup and the trip to Riders that will be occupying all Lions’ thoughts this week.

The midlands side will no doubt be out for revenge after losing in Milton Keynes three weeks ago – particularly given the nature of the 81-73 defeat as both clubs lost themselves in a war of words in the build up.

Leicester go into the match in decent form having beaten Cheshire Jets in their Championship opener, while Lions must improve after their dismal performance in Glasgow.

Lions endured a nightmare first-half and were put to the sword by a good all round team performance from the home side. There was nothing to really separate the two teams during the opening seven minutes in a keenly contested match-up, but Rocks suddenly exploded either side of the first quarter break.

Having had their noses in front 17-15, they began to really put their foot on the accelerator and with Lions turning the ball over 13 times to Rocks’ one, it was always going to be an uphill battle.

By half time it was 61-34, but Lions did return to the floor for the second session prepared to battle gamely to recover their position, but the damage had been done.

Having initially gone 34 points behind, Lions managed to finish the third period with a flourish to bridge the gap to 84-63 heading into the last 10 minutes.

However, in the final period the hosts began to stretch their lead once again as Gareth Murray and DeAndre Cranston led the scoring on 20 and 19 respectively. For Lions Demarius Bolds top scored with 34, ably supported by Daniel Northern on 19.

Bolds added eight rebounds and five steals to maintain his incredible start to the season, but Lions can’t rely solely on him and a major improvement is needed to avoid a second defeat to Riders in what will no doubt be a hostile atmosphere.

Lions’ fans will be travelling up the M1 in good number and chief executive Vince Macaulay says his side want nothing more than to silence their ‘noisy neighbours’.

“I guess you could say it’s a bit like the Manchester United versus City situation, and we’d love to keep them quiet,” he said.

“They’re a pest under our skin, but this is probably the game we need after that defeat to Glasgow – we’re not sure what happened there!

“We have to give credit to them. Maybe we underestimated their pride after being beaten at home last Friday – they clearly didn’t want to lose two home games in a row.

“But we’re a young team and we might have to expect inconsistency. We are just looking at it as a blip though and winning on Saturday is now all that’s on our mind. We know we hurt them before and they’ll want revenge, so we have to be ready.”