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BBL: London Lions 96 Newcastle Eagles 84

PUBLISHED: 11:34 31 March 2018

Cory Dixon goes up for a basket (pic Graham Hodges)

Cory Dixon goes up for a basket (pic Graham Hodges)

Archant

London Lions extended their unbeaten run to four, as they took down second-placed Newcastle Eagles in a thrilling game at the Copper Box on Good Friday.

Jerelle Okoro keeps eyes on a rival (pic Graham Hodges)Jerelle Okoro keeps eyes on a rival (pic Graham Hodges)

The win also sees them take the head-to-head with Newcastle, having beaten them at Sport Central in February.

Brandon Peel (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Jon Thompson (17 points, 10 assists) put up double doubles for the Lions, a feat made more remarkable by Peel’s having exited the game after taking a knock to the head halfway through the third quarter.

And Cory Dixon had another productive game, leading the scoring for the home side with 21 points and frustrating Newcastle at both ends of the court.

The game was fairly evenly matched for the first three quarters, with both sides making small runs, but neither being able to chalk up a convincing lead.

Andre Lockharts looks for a way through as coach Vince Macaulay looks on (pic Graham Hodges)Andre Lockharts looks for a way through as coach Vince Macaulay looks on (pic Graham Hodges)

But the Lions’ impressive rebounding, and presence in the paint, were key to an important victory as they look to get the most from a fixture pile up over the Easter period.

The Lions came out of the gates strong, working hard and methodically to get points on the board. But while they could manage single-digit leads, Newcastle were answering right back.

With just over a minute to go in the first quarter, Dixon got the defensive rebound and moved the ball up the court to help Jerelle Okoro take the Lions lead to five.

But it would be former Lions fan favourite Kai Williams who would have the last word, with a jump shot that would cut the lead to three, ending the quarter 18-15.

Paul Guede looks for a way through (pic Graham Hodges)Paul Guede looks for a way through (pic Graham Hodges)

Williams went back at it straight at the start of the second, but was off the mark with a shot from behind the arc.

And Peel did the same thing at the other end of the court, before Dixon put an end to the scrapping with a beautiful steal and layup to restore the lead to five. Newcastle then went on the hunt, with back-to-back three point shots helping them wrestle the lead back from the Lions.

Both teams were at it, with frantic play that saw the lead switching around before Dixon was judged to have fouled behind the three point line and Jure Gunjina converted all three.

A quick Jamal Williams jump shot put the visitors up by four, before Dixon rescued the situation with a jump shot of his own.

Lamar Roberts with fans (pic Graham Hodges)Lamar Roberts with fans (pic Graham Hodges)

Newcastle would build their lead back up to six, before Paul Guede put up a jump shot to send the Lions into the half-time break down by just four.

The third quarter was a repeat of the second, with both teams battling to gain the advantage, but at the end of it, it was the Lions who were up by two, with all to play for in the fourth.

With less than a minute gone in the final session, Andre Lockhart stepped up with a massive three-pointer that sent the Copper Box to their feet.

Some scrappy play from both sides saw the advantage drop to just three, before Dixon again calmed nerves with five quick points to give the Lions an eight-point cushion.

The Lions would score 15 unanswered points to give them an 18-point lead over the now shell-shocked visitors and the crowd, egged on by Dixon, were loving it.

Newcastle were not going to give up, though, and five points for Kai Williams bought the lead down to 12 points with three minutes left.

However, Thompson seized the game with five points of his own, including a highlight reel-worthy slam dunk as the Lions took the win.

They have little time to rest, though, as leaders Leicester visit on Easter Sunday (4pm).

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