Play-off target missed as pressure mounts on New

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LIONS are facing up to the reality that they will probably not make this season’s British Basketball League play-offs after falling to their ninth defeat in 10 matches on Tuesday night.

Mike New’s men were downed 98-86 at Sheffield Sharks, three days after falling to a 100-84 loss at Plymouth Raiders, effectively ending any remaining hopes they had of making the top eight.

Realistically Lions will need to win all their remaining matches and hope that other results go in their favour to stand any chance of extended their season - exactly what Lions chief executive Vince Macaulay demanded of his coach when he gave New the job almost a year ago.

In such poor form it’s difficult to see where Lions’ next win will come from, with a trip to second placed Newcastle Eagles next up on Friday, followed by the visit of Leicester Riders on Sunday before the Eagles come to Winterhill on Wednesday. The good news for a travel sick Lions is that three of their last four games after those are also at home, but by then it’s likely to be too late to salvage a play-off place.

Lions’ ninth defeat from 10 on Tuesday was Sheffield’s sixth in a row as they maintained hopes of catching Newcastle and table toppers Everton Tigers in a tight Championship title race, with all three sides tied on 38 points.

Sharks were inspired by super double-doubles from their inside duo of Mike Tuck (32 points and 11 rebounds) and Paul Williams (20 points and 10 rebounds).

The hosts won the game with runs inside the second and third quarters - as consecutive baskets from Tuck took him to 18 in just 14 minutes and the score to 37-30, and it was from that point that the Sharks pushed on.

Sharks then posted a 10-2 burst, including five for Atiba Lyons, to help the lead out to 50-37 on Ryan Patton’s triple.

In the third period Lions had it back down to just seven points, only for Sharks to respond with another 10-2 run - capped in style by Patton’s three-pointer to make it 62-49 midway through the third.

And Sharks went on to hold their visitors scoreless for three minutes, rattling off a further 8-0 burst, with four for Dagostino, to lead 70-53. Despite 10 points from Demarius Bolds near the end, the hosts held on as Tuck settled any nerves with a triple.

Lions would score just once in nearly four minutes before Paul Williams scored six consecutive points to restore their margin to 83-69 and see Sharks through the finishing stages.

Losing in Yorkshire is certainly no embarrassment for Lions, but on the back of losing their eight previous games, it will have been hard to take for New and his men.

The margin of Lions’ defeat in Devon on Saturday was larger as Raiders cruised to victory by 16 points, with Bolds’ 22 points the best it got for the visitors.

Plymouth were up 29-17 by the end of the first quarter and kept up their significant lead through to half time, with Evaldas Zabas starting to turn the screw on his way to 25 points on the night and the score was 53-40 going into the locker rooms.

And Raiders’ maintained their double-digit cushion throughout as both Chez Marks and Anthony Rowe started to weigh in to make it 73-62 going into the final stanza.

Lions kept pushing hard, but could make little impression on proceedings, despite the efforts of Travis Nelson who was again impressive for the visitors as he posted 19 points.

With seven games to go it looks like Lions are just left to play for pride, and another summer of big change could be on the horizon.

Macaulay has shown plenty of faith in New, who will always be a Lions legend from his playing days, but the Lions supremo may have some thinking to do in the next few weeks,