LIONS booked their place in the last four of the British Basketball League Trophy on Sunday, but only after a humiliating 102-67 BBL Cup defeat to fierce rivals Leicester Riders.
Lions made the short trip up the M1 on Saturday to face a Riders side looking for revenge following their Trophy defeat in Milton Keynes that set Lions on their way to making the semi finals.
That business was taken care of with a straight forward 93-65 victory at London Leopards, setting Mike New’s men up with a two-legged semi final against Plymouth Raiders early next year.
But that win was little consolation for Lions after Leicester had the last laugh in the two clubs’ recent off-court war of words. And things don’t get much easier with a long trip north to Newcastle Eagles this Friday in their second Championship game of the season before they play host to Guildford Heat on Sunday.
The opening period saw Riders amass a huge 39 points and hold Lions to 18 to give the visitors a mountain to climb, and one they were never realistically going to get close to conquering. Lions missed a whopping 62 shots in the game – almost as many as the Riders took.
It didn’t get any easier for Lions as the Riders were efficient with their shooting whilst the visitors continued to miss shot after shot – the hosts going on to hold a commanding 62-32 lead at the interval.
The second half was something of a non-contest as Lions tried desperately to restore some pride and Riders continued to hold them at arm’s length, leaving four starters on the floor at all times to thwart any Lions comeback. Demarius Bolds top scored on 15 for Lions, with Nuno Pedroso (14) and Daniel Northern (13) in pursuit.
Leicester now go on to meet Cheshire Jets in the second round of the Cup while Lions can concentrate on the Trophy.
They made sure of winning their group with a second win over London Leopards the following day, making it three wins in four having beaten Riders once and lost once in their earlier pool games.
Still reeling from that defeat to Riders the previous night, Lions were dragging their heels in the first quarter as they tried to put their hosts away. An injury scare to Carl Josey and Northern further unsettled the team with Josey out for the game with a back injury and Northern also sitting out for a while. Both players went for a long pass on the buzzer and collided before hitting the floor hard as the first quarter ended 27-26 to London.
In the second quarter, Bolds bagged a three-pointer to start the period and give Lions a lead that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
Lions continued to extend their lead for the remainder of the second through Bolds and Pedroso, with Northern also returning to also move the scoreboard on. Howard Crawford hit a three and the visitors headed into the locker rooms at half time leading by five points at 40-45.
In the second half, the Lions began to wear down their Division One opponents and extend their lead as a result as they enjoyed an 8-0 run to open up the third quarter to take the score out to 40-53.
And so it continued – Pedroso nailing threes, as did Adrien Sturt, while London danger man Ousman Krubally was well shackled by a combination of Bolds and Crawford, leaving the visitors headed into the final stanza leading 56-68.
In the final period, the home side tried valiantly to get themselves back into the contest, but despite the efforts of Vernon Teel and Will Ohuaregbe, Lions continued to extend their lead thanks to an 11-2 run before closing the game out.