LIONS LEFT WITH WIN OR BUST

London Lions 568London Lions are on the verge of missing the BBL play-offs after the biggest crowd in the franchise’s 25-year history watched them routed 89-63 by Leicester Riders on Wednesday.

It may have been their last game at Crystal Palace too. If Manchester win when the sides meet at Wright Robinson on Friday, the Giants will face Leicester in the first round of the post-season with the Lions crashing out.

Victory would send the Lions through. But they’ll need better.

While Orlan Jackman got the opening basket of the contest for the hosts, it wasn’t a sign of things to come. The Lions’ only lead of the game evaporated within seconds and they never re-discovered it for the remainder of the game.

Riders took control in the first quarter by putting the defensive squeeze on their hosts to get out in front. Connor Washington converted from long-range to open up a double digit lead and Riders poured in a mammoth 30 points in the opening period, although Lions cut the gap to single figures at 30-21.

Lions at least gave the huge crowd plenty to cheer in the second quarter, with a rousing start meaning they managed to haul themselves back into the game.  A 10-3 run was rounded off by a dunk from Jackman which got the spectators up on their feet.

However, the joy was short-lived as Riders composed themselves and by half-time, were back on top at 52-38, led by captain Drew Sullivan ,who eventually finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Neither side could make much impact in the third quarter as Lions struggled to erode the deficit, and after a 14-4 start to the final period by Riders, the hopes of a revival for the Londoners went up in flames when they fell 82-55 behind.

Riders subsequently coasted to their 29th victory of the season as Cousinard top-scored with 21 points.

Sharks take bite out of Newcastle

In a dress rehearsal for their play-off encounter, Sheffield beat Newcastle Eagles 70-60 to land a small psychological blow.

It saw the Sharks – for whom Atiba Lyons won the BBL Coach of the Month award for March – avenge two previous defeats to the Eagles this season as Nick Lewis grabbed 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The tone was set from the early stages as the Sharks raced into a 10-2 lead, with Lewis scoring the last 4 of those points, over the opening three and a half minutes. And, after the Eagles settled themselves to get back to 15-9, the Sharks were equally dominant in the final three minutes of the first period as they didn’t allow the Eagles to score and finished with the last 7 points to lead 22-9, Lewis on 10 first quarter points.

The lead grew yet more in the second stanza as the Sharks started with an 11-2 run that saw their lead reach its peak at 33-11 as former Eagle Olu Babalola (5), Mike Tuck (4) and Zach Gachette (4) shared all of their points through the first six minutes of the period. Darius Defoe stemmed the flow for the Eagles, with 5 points, as they got back to 41-24 before the half time break, but it was the fewest points that the Eagles have scored in a half this season.

A slow-scoring start to the third quarter suited the Sharks, as they kept their visitors shackled. The teams shared just 5 points in nearly three minutes, and the Sharks retained their margin through to 51-33 as Lewis scored a three-pointer with four and a half minutes to play. But from there the Eagles did find the scoring touch as they rattled off a 10-4 spell, sparked by a Charles Smith triple and capped by another from Damon Huffman, with Defoe scoring twice in between. But, despite that, the Eagles could not narrow the gap heading into the final quarter as Lewis and Andrew Bridge made a series of free-throws to put the Sharks up 62-43.

The fourth quarter also started slowly, with only four points scored in the first three and a half minutes. But, while it started OK for the hosts, the Eagles had far the better of a low-scoring finale to the game. They got as close as 65-58 with 1.15 to play on Anthony Martin’s three-pointer after a 12-0 surge which saw the Sharks fail to score in five and a half minutes while Martin scored 7 and Maddox scored 5. But Tuck responded and BJ Holmes saw the game out with 3/4 at the line in the final minute.

Newcastle’s Kareem Maddox who had 20 points and 14 rebounds.

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