The London Lions defeated the Plymouth Raiders 93-84 in the BBL Championship at the Copper Box on Wednesday night, to further close in on a top playoff spot.
The London Lions entered their host clash against the Plymouth Raiders after their Easter Monday exhibition game against the Lithuanian side Vytautas, home of the LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball. The Lions have been in great form domestically with five league wins in the run including statement wins over Newcastle and Leicester.
The Raiders have had a difficult season and see themselves down in 10th place with a target of collecting ten wins, a feat they will do well to accomplish with a tough end of season schedule. The Raiders entered the game fresh off a road loss to Cheshire Phoenix 80-90.
The Raiders had the best of the opening exchanges forcing Lions Coach Vince Macaulay into an early timeout. The Lions settled into their rhythm after the timeout and went on big scoring runs to take a ten point, 27-17 lead into the first intermission. 8 first-quarter points from Brandon Peel set the tone for the Lions and his effort was supported with three-pointers from Paul Guede and Justin Robinson, who injured his ankle on Monday but was fit enough to start the contest.
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The contest was all but over at halftime as the Lions led 44-28 after 20 minutes. The Lions dominated the second quarter but were only able to add six points to their lead, but were playing efficient basketball whilst rotating through their side. Brandon Peel continued his remarkable form, which saw him in the BBL team of the week yet again, by scoring a 17 point and 10 rebound double-double by the half.
The Lions came out of the interval looking to kill the game off completely bagging three three-pointers, back to back threes from Justin Robinson and one from Jonathan Thompson. Robinson, who left the Big Baller Clash on Monday with an ankle injury, would lead all scorers to end the game with 24 points.
Lions’ Cory Dixon and Raiders’ Zak Wells received their fourth fouls. Wells was starting to impose himself a little more on the contest at a time his side desperately needed it, but some soft calls in the first quarter came back to hurt him and Coach Gavin Love was forced to bench his captain for the remainder of the third. The Lions ended the quarter up 20 points as the two sides traded baskets throughout.
The third quarter gave us the highlight of the game. Brandon Pell exploded from the baseline to crush a monster two-handed jam, posterizing Joonas Jarvelainen in the process. Jarvelainen bravely went up to block Peel but ended up committing a foul and finished flat on his back from the powerful slam dunk.
The Lions busy recent schedule finally started to show in the final term as the Raiders scored 32 points to narrow the gap down to 9 points thanks, but the game was never in doubt for the home side. Tre Bowman drilled back to back threes assisted by Neighbour to get the gap down to 9 points as the Raiders pushed the Lions in the dying minutes.
The Raiders were led in scoring by Denzel Ubiaro who finished with 15 points, but it was Will Neighbour who led the way for the visitors scoring 9 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Former Lion Zak Wells managed his final foul very well and contributed with 10 points and 6 rebounds and had a fantastic battle with Cory Dixon who finished the game with 14 points.
Okoro “It was tough, just because we’re tired. We had to really pull through the whole 40 minutes as a team. Today we were mentally there, even though we did lack at the end I felt that as a team we were unified and we stuck to what we knew we could do so that pulled us through the end.”
The victory is the fourth in a week for the Lions and the sixth in a row. The Lions have a rest day tomorrow, Thursday, before facing off against the Sheffield Sharks in a vital clash which will go a long way to determining the second position in the table.
Peel credited his double-double to confidence in his teammates, confidence from Vince Macaulay and a lot of effort. On the fourth victory in a week “It feels great, especially seeing as we’re playing quality teams, we just want to keep this momentum going into the playoffs and hopefully, we have home court advantage when it comes time.”
Vince Macaulay was full of praise for his star forward “I don’t know what else we can say about Peel. first of all, he’s just such a lovely man, his approach to basketball is so simple and he’s so skilled, I’m really pleased for him and just glad we have him on our team.”
Plymouth host Champions elect Leicester Riders on Sunday before three road games, two of which they will be favourites to win against Manchester and Leeds.