London Lions have secured the franchise’s first-ever British Basketball League title.

And they did it in some style with a 99-80 victory over Newcastle Eagles enough to secure the championship with a game to spare.

The hosts, who were already guaranteed to finish third, put up little resistance after the Lions pulled clear in the second quarter and then accelerated with a 13-0 run in the third.

And with Justin Robinson hitting a game-high 35 points, it was enough to cement the biggest day in the 42-year history of a club which tasted precious little success its prior stints in Hemel, Watford and Milton Keynes but has finally hit the heights.

“For me personally, it’s a vindication of what I believed all along, trying to put as many British players on the floor,” said the Lions coach and long-time owner Vince Macaulay, who dedicated the first title for a capital outfit for 21 years to the late Kevin Cadle and Jimmy Rogers.

“For what we did in Hemel, for what we did in Milton Keynes, for the belief of people like the Mayor of London and the GLL had in us – to put us in the Copper Box. Also for the belief that Justin had to come home. 

“It’s tremendous I’m just pretty speechless really in as far as what we’ve done, but obviously it’s not about one game. It’s about everything we’ve done over the last 32 games. 

“We all know about Leicester and Newcastle, such storied franchises, and it’s fantastic that it was able to go more or less to the last weekend and we’re happy to have been in the same company as those guys as a Championship winner.”

It also kiboshed the potential for a winner-take-all decider at the Copper Box on Sunday, when the championship trophy will now be presented, with dethroned champions Leicester now condemned to second place ahead of their trip to London.

“For me, the reason I came back was to win silverware, since all this stuff means nothing if you don’t win,” said Robinson. “I want to go down as a winner and it’s our first league championship as a club and in our history, so it’s massive and it means so much to us and the fans. 

“I’m sure Sunday [when we return home], is going to be a big crowd and they’re going to give us a round of applause and a standing ovation, so it’s huge.”

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London City Royals edged out Bristol Flyers 84-83 to ensure the Trophy winners will finish fourth in their debut campaign, eliminating the Flyers from the playoff race and confirming Cheshire Phoenix and Plymouth Raiders in the top eight.

Glasgow Rocks will either finish fifth or seventh, depending on whether they beat Plymouth on Sunday, after a 74-72 loss at Worcester, with the Wolves victory ensuring Surrey, not them, will end up bottom of the table.


Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

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