New era to continue after play-off failure

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CHIEF executive Vince Macaulay says Mike New will remain as head coach next season, despite Lions not making the British Basketball League play-offs this term.

Lions finished the season with a 89-72 defeat to Glasgow Rocks on Sunday, but did at least give home fans a winning send off by beating Essex Pirates on Friday night.

But it has been a disappointing year on the court as Lions finish in 10th place and eight points off the play-off places. But Macaulay says he’s been happy enough with his rookie coach to give him another go next season.

“We’ll have a formal review now that the season is over, but I don’t see any reason why Mike won’t be coaching the side again,” he said.

“He’s employed by MK Lions so we’ll do things properly and take a look back over the season. But it’s been such a hectic season that he deserves another shot at it.”

Despite looking well off the top eight pace for the majority of the season, Lions gave themselves a chance to make the play-offs with three straight wins at the end of March and beginning of April.

But a defeat to Sheffield Sharks ended hopes of a dramatic end to the season at the weekend, and it was that run of games - five in 10 days - that ultimately cost Lions a play-off place says Macaulay.

“We knew those games in hand were going to catch up with us at some point, but for a minute there we thought we’d got away with it,” he said. “It hurts to miss out, and we’ll watch on this week wishing we were involved.”

With nothing riding on that last home game against Pirates, coach New opted to blood some of Lions’ youngsters up against the league’s whipping boys, and they emerged 110-104 winners.

Lions played an entirely English roster for the first half and opened up a 40-35 lead. Travis Nelson sat out while Shawn Myers, Demarius Bolds and Kris Clark logged just 38 of the 200 minutes available as at one stage Lions’ team averaged 22 years, with all on the floor scoring.

Stefan Gill got Lions going and he went on to total an excellent 37 points, eight rebounds, five steals and seven assists.

Lawrence Brown soon got in on the act as the hosts quickly led 8-4 in a low scoring start, and Adrian Sturt was the only man to really stand out for the away side. Yorick Williams and Connor Washington moved the score on before Pirates managed to take the lead, 15-16 at the buzzer.

Brown hit one off the glass, then Jack Thompson hit a three as the home side went back in front. Gill was now heating up as the Pirates had nobody with any speed to be able to challenge him. Cameron Bernard came off the bench with Ishmael Fontaine and was soon in the thick of it, hitting five points in no time, and when Brown nailed a 15 footer Lions led 40-35 at the half.

New introduced imports Bolds, Myers and Clark after the break - but Myers racked up fouls straight away while nailing seven points as Clark hit 10 points to help Lions go 77-68 to the good.

Pirates made a fist of it in the fourth quarter with Sturt finding his range as New went back to his youngsters. Anthony Haase scored a put back before Brown brought the house down with a thunderous dunk, while Bernard and Gill were exceptional.

Despite a decent late flurry from the visitors, Gill and Bernard iced the game from the free throw line as fans could celebrate a winning end to the season at Winterhill.

Sunday’s match at Rocks didn’t go to plan though as the Scottish side won 89-72 to make absolutely sure of their play-off place.

Mike Copeland was the star man for them, but Lions held their own in the opening session to keep the score tied at 21 apiece, with Bolds and Nelson leading the line.

Rocks began to edge in front in the second period though, leading 45-37 at the break. And things got worse for Lions who fell 18 points adrift at 72-54 going into the final stanza before Glasgow saw out the final stages to book their play-off quarter final clash with Sheffield.

In the other ties, Championship winners Mersey Tigers take on the Leicester Riders, Newcastle Eagles play Guildford Heat, and Cheshire Jets battle Plymouth Raiders.