Cheshire Phoenix humbled London Lions 82-68 in the BBL Trophy final.

Larry Austin Jr was named MVP after notching 23 points and ten rebounds as Cheshire humiliated the favourites in the fourth quarter at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

“The toughest team was going to win tonight,” he declared. “And I believe we were the tougher team.”

Up 40-35 at half-time against a Lions team missing the injured Isaiah Reese and Will Neighbour, the Nix were merely 59-55 to the good late in the third.

Cue the unstoppable surge.

15 unanswered points tore their big-spending foes to shreds, profiting from the streak of dysfunction that has seemingly plagued the capital outfit for the past two campaigns.

“We knew that if we denied their wings and put pressure on the ball as much as we could, we’d give ourselves a chance,” said Nix head coach Ben Thomas, who collected the second trophy of his career. “And the guys really bought into that”

Dirk Williams, who had 17 of his 24 points in the first half, broke their run but these were slim pickings.

Short of discipline, London had hoped retaining the prize they claimed 12 months ago might ignite a late season surge to match their lofty ambitions.

Instead Cheshire – by most metrics, the minnows of the BBL – acquired the Trophy for the fifth time in club history with Namon Wright terrific in adding 18 points.

“It’s a team effort,” said Austin. “All of us were locked in on the defensive end. Everybody was not talking about offense. All we were talking about was defence, even with 1:35 left.”

London, who declined to speak to media post-game, must look within now – and ahead.

Tabbing Vince Macaulay as the fall guy for their prior struggles, the deposed head coach had no role in what felt like a true low in the building project which began when they came under American ownership.

His control limited, interim head coach James Vear surely merits little blame.

Although club sources have told MVP that no decision has been made on hiring a permanent playcalling replacement, it is presumed that Ryan Schmidt – the former Raptors G-League assistant coach who has been around Lions for much of this campaign in an unofficial capacity – is the front runner.

But the success of Lions’ women now provides an unfavourable contrast. Clear direction. All buying in.

London’s men might still redeem themselves in the playoffs.

However big, as we saw here, does not always signify better.

Game Stats

Photos: Mansoor Ahmed

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