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London Lions feel the Force

PUBLISHED: 08:34 06 March 2017

Andre Lockhart and Rashad Hassan in action for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)

Andre Lockhart and Rashad Hassan in action for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)

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London Lions 81 Leeds Force 92

Zaire Taylor looks for a pass for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)Zaire Taylor looks for a pass for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)

After the heartbreak of a dubious last-second defeat in Bristol last week, the London Lions again fell to lower league opposition at the Copper Box last night.

This time, it would be Leeds Force, or more specifically Jack Isenbarger, who had a storming game, putting away 34 points including eight three-pointers.

The Lions had many chances to put the game away, but Leeds were stronger on the three-point shot, putting away 16 shots from downtown compared with the home side’s seven.

But Lions, at least for the first half, were stronger on the rebound and were the more dominant side physically.

Zak Wells shoots for the basket during London Lions' meeting with Leeds at the Copper Box Arena (pic Graham Hodges)Zak Wells shoots for the basket during London Lions' meeting with Leeds at the Copper Box Arena (pic Graham Hodges)

Rashad Hassan put up a spirited fight for the home side, recording a double-double of 33 points and 11 rebounds, and his partnership with Zaire Taylor – which was used too infrequently – saw some stunning plays. Taylor himself netted 19 points and five assists.

The game started well for the Lions, using their height and strength to build up a lead of six early on.

But, in a sign of what was to come, this lead was easily overturned by a Leeds side that successfully scored all six of their first-quarter three-point attempts.

The Lions struggled to contain them from long range and went into the first break down five points.

Joe Ikhinmwin attacks for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)Joe Ikhinmwin attacks for London Lions against Leeds (pic Graham Hodges)

The second quarter saw Leeds’ success with the three-point shot diminish and some strong defensive plays from the Lions, including Navid Niktash continuing his powerful presence under the basket, frustrated the visitors and forced them into committing silly fouls.

The Lions made 11 trips to the free-throw line in the first half, compared with just two trips for Leeds.

By the time the first half had finished, the Lions had a slender two-point advantage and went into the locker-room looking confident.

Leeds had two players who had racked up three fouls and were looking in trouble, but, as it has too often this season, the third quarter was what did it for the Lions.

Neither side were shooting comfortably and, by the time Nigel Lloyd called a timeout half way through the period, the Lions were back to being four points down.

Things were only going to get worse as the Lions repeatedly failed to capitalise on errors from Leeds and at the end of the third quarter the score was 68-62 to the visitors.

The successful rebounding, which had seen the Lions come back from deficits earlier in the game, now deserted them and they failed to make the most of Leeds’ foul trouble, relying on the three-point shot, which hasn’t served them well this season, rather than driving to the basket and forcing fouls.

Taylor was particularly guilty of this, switching from a player who had some skilful assists in the first half, to one who took shots from far too deep, gifting the ball back to Leeds.

Even with three players fouling out for Leeds, the Lions still couldn’t close the gap and went down by an 11-point margin.

A result like this will be particularly concerning as the Lions head into the business end of the season having only managed four wins – in stark contrast to the clinical outfit that started the campaign.

The next test will come on Friday (7.30pm) at the Copper Box in the shape of Plymouth – whom the Lions comfortably beat away in February.

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