Lions target first final in four years

MK LIONS are gearing up for their highly anticipated BBL Trophy semi final affair against Plymouth Raiders this weekend as they look to bounce back from defeat to Guildford Heat on Sunday.

Mike New’s men recorded a routine 82-73 victory over BBL Championship whipping boys Durham Wildcats at the Lions Arena on Friday night, but failed to make it a weekend double when they crashed 83-66 in a controversial clash at Guildford 48 hours later.

Guard Demarius Bolds was slapped with a disqualification in the closing stages at the Surrey Sports Park as he made his way to the bench – meaning he had to leave the arena and will have to serve a one-match ban.

Lions have since appealed the ban and are waiting to hear back from the BBL. If the referee’s decision is upheld then he will miss the first leg of Lions’ Trophy semi final at home to Plymouth this Friday night.

The incident marked a disappointing end to a weekend that had promised so much – Lions climbing to a season high of fifth place after beating Durham.

The sides traded baskets throughout the majority of the opening period, but it was Lions who made the first move of the game leaping out to a five point lead at 13-8 before Wildcats got themselves back to within a point at 14-13 with 2:40 left in the quarter.

The home side finished the opening stanza the stronger as they netted the final five points of the period – Howard Crawford slamming and a resurgent Adrien Sturt finishing with aplomb on a fast break with a terrific dunk to lead 19-13 at the end of the quarter.

In the second period an 8-2 Lions burst to open the quarter took the score to 27-15. Despite the best efforts of the visitors to claw their way back into the contest, five points from Stefan Gill in the closing stages helped Lions head into the locker room leading 40-22 at the half.

In the second half the visitors again managed to close the gap slightly to 15 points at 51-36, but Lions responded immediately with a 13-5 tear of their own to take the score right back out to 64-41 – Bolds orchestrating things with eight assists to go with his 17 points.

Lions maintained the strong lead as the period wound down to lead 65-43 heading into the final stanza.

In the final quarter a three-pointer from Sturt helped Lions into a 21 point lead at 76-55 with 3:35 remaining in the contest, while 18 year-old Chris Taiwah and Cameron Bernard came off the bench to score, pleasing the home fans.

Wildcats would not give up without a fight though as they rattled off a 18-4 tear to get to within just seven points at 80-73 with 27 seconds remaining, but a pair of free throws from Sturt sealed the game and the victory for the Lions.

Sturt led the scorers with 22 points for the home side, while Mike Capocci led the way for Wildcats on 20.

However, with a top four finish up for grabs at Guildford on Sunday, Lions fell way short, despite exploding out of the blocks as they opened up an early 6-15 advantage midway through the opening quarter.

Heat responded immediately as they got themselves back into the game as a Mike Martin basket sparked the hosts into life with a 13-2 tear to take the lead at 19-17. Both sides traded baskets for the remainder of the period, but it was Lions who ended the quarter on top at 21-23.

In the second period it was Heat who broke the game open as a Shaun Durant basket sparked an impressive 14-2 burst to turn the game completely on its head and give Heat the lead at 39-29 with three minutes remaining in the half.

Lions tried desperately to close the gap before the half – a Gill three-pointer to close the second quarter saw Lions trailing by nine points at 43-34 heading into the locker rooms.

Missing Daniel Northern, the visiting Lions rallied at the start of the third as a big three from Carl Josey and a slam from Sturt saw the visitors slowly claw their way back into the contest as they trimmed the deficit to just two points at 51-49 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

However, that only served to kick the Heat into action when they stepped up their intensity at both ends of the floor as they rattled off a 15-2 burst to end the quarter well on top – leading 66-51 heading into the final stanza.

In the final period Lions started with a 9-2 run to get to within eight points at 68-60, but Crawford fouled out as Lions failed to get any closer.

Then as the game petered out a foul was called on Bolds with 90 seconds on the clock, and he was disqualified by the referee for allegedly something he said as the game duly ended 83-66, leaving Lions to finish the weekend down in seventh place in the Championship.

Bolds led all scorers with 24 points for the Lions while Heat’s Mike Martin had 16. And should Bold be banned for Friday’s semi final first leg with Raiders then it would be a huge loss to Lions as they look to book a place in a cup final for the first time since 2008.

“We’re all a little startled, as were the Heat players and fans,” said Lions coach New after seeing his guard dismissed.

“There seemed to be no reason for this action and Demarius has told me he didn’t use any foul language towards the referee.”

Chief executive Vince Macaulay also added his voice in defence of Bolds who he described as an ‘ultimate competitor’ for his side.

“He plays hard every second he is on the floor,” said Macaulay. “I’m sure that things just got a bit heated in what was as physical a game as we have been in this season.

“I’m sure Demarius would not insult a referee but we will now go through the proper channels with our appeal.”