MK LIONS fell at the final hurdle on Sunday night as they lost their BBL Trophy semi final tie to Plymouth Raiders – despite leading by six points with just seconds remaining.
Lions recorded a 87-81 first leg win at home on Friday night, and maintained a three-score lead going into the final stages. However, a nightmare last 49 seconds saw Plymouth hit back to level the contest on aggregate and send the game into overtime where Lions eventually succumbed to a 107-99 defeat on the night, and 186-188 on aggregate.
Going to Devon with a six-point lead, Lions had been sublime and composed the whole way through the game, never letting Raiders get ahead in the contest.
Missing Adrien Sturt with a hip injury, Lions took to the floor with Demarius Bolds, Daniel Northern, Carl Josey, Howard Crawford and Nuno Pedroso.
With the Raiders going basket for basket in the first, it was James Jones who led them with seven in that quarter, while Northern and Crawford worked well inside, scoring at will whilst Bolds hit eight in the first as Lions led 18-23.
The second quarter saw more of the same, and as Jeremy Bell or Lehmon Colbert tried to fire up the home side, Northern and then Robert Youngblood had an answer inside.
Raiders’ Paul Williams then began to find his feet as Northern picked up his third foul, the centre notching up 11 points at half time as the home side closed to 41-43 at the break, but with Lions still in control.
The third quarter saw Josey lead the Lions as his penetrating drives to the basket in transition caused problems. Michael Ojo began hitting threes as his marker lost him and slowly the home side rallied. Youngblood and Crawford responded for Lions, but two bad unforced turnovers led to easy Plymouth scores, whilst Bolds swiftly moved to 20 points at the end of the third as the Raiders now led 64-62.
Into the fourth and Josey and Crawford went to work getting Lions back in front, and Pedroso too added a three and a strong ‘and one’ drive to the basket, to help Lions lead by four points on the night and 10 on aggregate.
Bolds picked up his fourth foul with six minutes to play and was quickly rested, then came back at a time when Bell was trying to bring Raiders back – he hit two three pointers to haul his team ahead by three with just 35 seconds to go,
Crawford was fouled and went to the line where he missed his two free throws. Bell then drove and hit an off balance three off the backboard to tie the game on aggregate as the home side led 95-89 on the night.
Lions had 18 seconds to reply. They moved the ball around and Pedroso saw an open three go down and rim out on the buzzer – sending the game into overtime.
It was Pedroso who nailed a three to start overtime, banishing his last second miss, but then two quick Raiders scores forced a time out from Lions coach Mike New.
A turnover led to another easy score and Lions suddenly trailed by 10. Northern, scored, Bolds hit a three, then Pedroso hit another three, and it was a two-point game.
Northern got the ball under the basket but was repelled as he tried to score. Lions got the ball out of bounds with seven seconds left, and the ball got to Bolds who fired but missed on the buzzer as the home side and fans exploded to celebration.
For Plymouth it was joy at reaching a second final of the season – having already lost the BBL Cup final to Newcastle Eagles in January – but for Lions it was gut-wrenching, and they had the long ride home to think about it.