A TOUGH couple of weeks for Lions were all forgotten about on Tuesday night as they beat Worcester Wolves 99-82 in front of the live Sky Sports cameras.
Mike New’s men produced their best performance of the season to inflict just a second Championship defeat on a Wolves side who have made a surprisingly good start to the campaign.
But they couldn’t handle Lions at their very best as Nuno Pedroso had his best game in the black and gold, scoring 20 points and six rebounds, while Demarius Bolds took a relative back seat by his usual standards.
The win lifts Lions up to seventh place in the table, and came at just the right time after a hard-to-take 92-95 home defeat to the Glasgow Rocks four days earlier in which the hosts threw away a commanding final period lead.
That last-second heartbreaker at the Lions Arena on Friday night gave New’s men their fourth defeat of the campaign – two of those to the side from north of the border.
But everything seemed to fall into place for Lions on Tuesday. A steady start from both sides saw Lions and Wolves trade baskets through the early exchanges as neither side was able to open a sizeable advantage.
A Stefan Gill three-pointer in the final minute of the first period gave the home side a 17-15 lead, but four points from Richie Gordon sent the visitors into a 17-19 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
In the second quarter the home side stepped up the intensity at the defensive end, and as a result they picked up easy baskets at the other end of the floor as eight points from Bolds sparked a 12-2 burst for the Lions to take the score out to 29-21.
Wolves got themselves back in the hunt thanks to back-to-back threes by Tommy Freeman as they trimmed the gap to just three points at 32-29, but another 8-2 tear for New’s men saw Lions extend their advantage to double figures for the first time in the contest at 40-30.
And the home side maintained a healthy lead as the half wound down and they headed into the locker rooms leading 44-36 at the end of the first 20 minutes of basketball.
In the second half Lions began strongly with a 10-3 tear at the start of the third period to take the score out to 54-41. And they maintained that double figure advantage to lead 60-49 midway through the quarter, before a three-point play courtesy of Gordon sparked the visitors back into life and sent them on an 18-4 burst to overhaul their hosts and lead 64-67 with less than a minute remaining in the third.
A Sherrad Prezzie-Blue free-throw with a second left in the third period made the score 70-72, but Pedroso hit a huge three-pointer right on the buzzer to send Lions into the final stanza leading by a point at 73-72.
That basket right at the end of the quarter sparked the Lions into life, especially as their two main scorers in Bolds and Daniel Northern were sitting on four fouls, as five points from Pedroso at the start of the final quarter helped Lions into an 82-74 lead off the back of a 9-2 start.
Another big three-pointer from Arnas Kazlauskas cut the deficit to five points at 84-79 with 4m 36s remaining in the contest, but that was as close as Wolves would get as a Stefan Gill three-pointer sent the home side on a 15-3 tear to close out the game and hand them the victory in front of their supporters.
Bolds and Pedroso led the scoring for Lions with 20 points apiece, but it was Gordon who led all the scorers in the contest with a game-high 27 points for the defeated Wolves.
After seeing his charges end their two game losing streak, coach New was an understandably happy man, and he singled out Pedroso for his performance.
“It was a great game and I was happy with the way we came out big in the second half and we take a lot of comfort from the victory,” he said.
“I have to give props to Pedroso – we’ve been waiting for him to have a big game, and hopefully this will be his breakout contest.”
Lions could have been celebrating back-to-back wins if they hadn’t let a strong third quarter lead slip against Rocks on Friday.
The hosts were down by just two points at 39-41 at the halfway stage of the game, and a number of quick lead changes ensued after the break with Bolds hitting a three-pointer for Lions before they established a 51-45 lead on a Pedroso triple.
That became 55-45 on another Bolds basket, in what had become a 16-4 burst. Rocks came back with five points from Danny Huffor but they were halted by another Bolds three as Lions looked good at 71-63 heading into the fourth.
But Rocks came back immediately through two quick three-pointers by Green, helping the score to 76-73, and it was 83-81 when Bolds fouled out with five minutes remaining.
Lions resolutely held on to their lead until the final minute, with Gill’s basket making it 92-89. However, a critical Lions turnover at halfway led to a Rocks lay in and a startling finish as the visitors stole the game with a Green basket
And then when Gill missed for the Lions, Green’s free-throws made the score 92-95, with Josey missing the three-pointer to tie the game at the end.
Lions now have just over a week’s rest before they welcome Dursham Wildcats to town on December 9.