SIX wins on the spin had raised spirits no end, but a very tough looking weekend turned out to be exactly that as Lions fell back to earth with back-to-back defeats.
Mike New’s men got to within touching distance of the British Basketball League play-offs after an extremely impressive run of form which saw them win three home games and, crucially, pick up three wins on their travels.
However, taking on two of the Championship big boys proved a test too big as first Cheshire Jets and then Glasgow Rocks got the better of them.
Of the eight matches played at their new Lions’ Arena, the club have lost four of them, with Jets the latest to exit town victorious courtesy of a reasonably routine 98-115 success on Friday, and two days later Glasgow Rocks saw off New’s men 78-72 in Scotland.
After losing to them twice this season going into their meeting, expectations were high that the city side could buck their recent trend against Jets and nick a win to stretch their run to seven in a row. And after running the north west side close last month, their was genuine cause for optimism.
But Gareth Murray clearly had other ideas as he netted 33 points for the Jets, meaning the valiant scoring efforts of Stefan Gill and Demarius Bolds were eventually in vain.
Quemont Greer got the scoring underway, and the teams traded baskets at both ends - good early scoring from Bolds allowed Lions to move ahead, before Greer and Murray keyed an 11-0 run to give Jets a 17-9 lead midway through the first quarter.
Gill was the one to end the dry spell for the hosts as they slowly made their way back into it, with Travis Nelson and Shawn Myers scoring and two steals saw Lions claw it back to 22-25 at the end of the quarter.
Lions tried to force the pace in the second period and Jets guard Jeremy Bell was picking up fouls - Bell fouled Gill as he released a three pointer through the hoop - and Gill then sunk the extra shot to tie the game at 29-29.
Myers then bagged four points against his old side to give Lions a two-point lead at 33-31, as their blistering pace was causing lots of problems for a leisurely Jets.
There was nothing between the sides at 37 before a Jets time out saw the visitors run a nine-point unanswered run to take the lead 39-46, forcing New into a time-out.
Nip and tuck it went with Jets sneaking ahead again before five straight Lions points - including a three point buzzer-beater from Yorick Williams - ended the half with them clawing back to 44-47.
Murray’s three point play was now causing problems for Lions as they couldn’t get the game by the scruff of the neck - Jets took the lead to seven at 53-60, before both teams were given technical fouls. But Lions failed to take full advantage with Gill making two out of two, but the team gaining nothing from the possession.
Gill then hit consecutive three pointers, and time and time again Lions had opportunities to tie the game or even take the lead.
But sloppy play cost them and eventually Jets responded with a Murray three pointer to extend their lead. Lions sent out Connor Washington to add some pace to the game, and that seemed to do the trick for a while as Jets were at a loss trying to keep the super fast youngster under control.
Eventually the Jets hit another purple patch and pushed the lead out to eight points - 75-83 at the end of the third.
A Myers slam brought Lions to within six points at 77-83 to start the period, but seven unanswered points by Jets saw the gap extend to 13. Bolds was getting into foul trouble while Clark was missing opportunities under the basket.
Lions made one final push to get into the game - a nine point run including slams for Nelson and Myers saw them get to within four points at 86-90. However, yet more careless play, together with some terrific shooting by Murray and Jeremy Bell, saw the visitors race away with it, as Gill finished on 26 and Bolds 24.
The end result in Glasgow was a far closer affair, and only a big third quarter saw Rocks turn the game around after Lions had led 45-43 at midway. However, Rocks opened up a four-point lead early in the third quarter and that was pretty much it, despite the efforts of Myers (18) and Nelson (16).
This weekend Lions entertain Worthing Thunder on Friday and then head to Worcester Wolves on Sunday. Lions’ academy side are in action before the senior team take on Wolves as they entertain the England U16 team and a side from Barking. Fans are invited to go and watch the youngsters for free at the club’s Winterhill home from 12.30pm on Friday.