LIONS’ hopes of a top four British Basketball League finish this season now look over after losing to the two sides immediately above them in the table during a weekend to forget.
It’s now four league defeats on the spin for Mike New’s men – five in all competitions – and after putting up strong resistance in previous losses to Leicester Riders and Worcester Wolves, the same could not be said about the weekend’s performances as Lions conceded more than 200 points against Sheffield Sharks and Glasgow Rocks.
Friday night’s 110-87 defeat at the hands of sixth placed Sheffield came in controversial circumstances, with Lions chief executive Vince Macaulay summing up the mood in the camp by saying: “Don’t get me wrong, we were poor, but when we only shoot three free throws to the opposition’s 28, you know something’s wrong.
“We didn’t execute our sets nor pay attention to our assignments, but that aside, you can not say that a 21-9 foul count was fair, and that as aggressive an offensive team as we are, we can only get three free throws. It’s alarming for us and for the League. I’m not sure how many people would pay to watch that kind of game.”
However, after that nightmare trip to south Yorkshire there was nothing controversial about a 101-88 defeat at home to fifth in the table Glasgow, leaving Lions clinging on to seventh place and now eight points adrift of fourth placed Plymouth Raiders who also have four games in hand.
Lions’ recent slump began with their BBL Trophy semi final defeat to Raiders at the start of February, and they must record a far better March to make sure their season does not end in the disaster of dropping out of the top eight and missing out on the play-offs.
And there is clearly a lot of work to be done on the training court at the Lions Arena if Sunday’s third defeat of the season to Rocks is anything to go by – the Scottish side producing a stunning second half performance to take the game after only a point had separated the sides at mid-way.
Former Lion EJ Harrison opened the scoring, but the visitors would not score for the next three minutes as Lions opened up a 9-2 lead on the back of a Demarius Bolds three and inside scores from Justin Dobbins and Daniel Northern.
Sterling Davis finally got the score moving for Rocks as Bolds pushed the score out. A late flurry from the visitors saw them sneak ahead to lead 17-20 at the end of the first.
Dobbins got Lions back on the track in the second period and great hustle and running from Carl Josey and Adrien Sturt saw the hosts back in front. But a technical foul on head coach New sparked the visitors as they led once again before a Lions run capped by a Northern slam saw the home side back ahead 47-46 at half time.
The third was nip and tuck before the Rocks pushed ahead through Harrison and Mychal Green as they opened up a 59-67 lead with three minutes remaining. Northern free throws and a Dobbins score helped to reduce the deficit to 64-70 at the end of the third, but by this stage it was looking an uphill challenge for Lions.
Turnovers cost Lions as three in a row allowed the lead to balloon to 64-78 before a New time out. With a good cushion Rocks controlled the tempo – despite an Ishmael Fontaine three the visitors kept Lions at arm’s length to record an 88-101 victory.
New recruit Dobbins led the Lions scoring on 23, while Bolds (18) and Northern (16) weighed in, but it was Green who guided Rocks home with his 23-point performance.
That defeat to Rocks came just 48 hours after Lions were left fuming in Sheffield – at their own performance and that of the officials as the game descended into farce as the visitors conceded a ridiculous 72 points in the second half.
The match had started with new boy Dobbins opening the scoring on his way to an impressive Lions debut against his former club, notching up 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Northern also combined well with Bolds and Lions were on their way to leading 17-21 after the first quarter, despite not going to the free throw line once.
Playing just six players the home side moved the ball well and tied the game on the back of a Jimmy Langhurst three pointer at 35, but a Nuno Pedroso three restored the Lions lead and it was left to Bolds to hit the last point of the half – the visitors’ first free throw – and leave the half time score at 38-43 to New’s men who had been whistled for 15 fouls to Sheffield’s five.
The third quarter showed no signs of what was to come, with Northern slamming off a Bolds assist, but then the fouls began to rain in as Dobbins and Bolds were called for technicals for showing their frustration at some of the calls.
By the end of the third Lions were down 74-60 and the home side were well on their way to shooting 28 free throws to Lions’ three – Langhurst the main beneficiary of the shooting practice on his way to 34 points.
The fourth period was little more than a procession as, although Lions drained three pointers by Stefan Gill, there was simply no way back, with Bolds fouling out with six minutes to go as Sharks finished 110-87 victors.
The weekend’s disappointed means Lions have a lot of frustration to get out of their system. Watch out Guildford Heat who visit the Lions Arena on Friday night.