Lightning quick London Lions too strong for Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 12:08 23 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:08 23 April 2017
London Lions 101 Cheshire 89
An explosive 35-point first quarter propelled the London Lions to victory over the Cheshire Phoenix at the Copper Box Arena.
Rashad Hassan (25), Navid Niktash (23) and Alex Owumi (20) all scored over 20 points, with Niktash scoring 18 of his in the first quarter alone.
A much stronger offensive performance was coupled with some strong rebounding and the Lions getting 17 points by forcing turnovers.
Following an emphatic home victory against a somewhat depleted Leicester team last week, the Lions came out ready to make their mark early on against a Cheshire side they have struggled with this season.
The Lions raced to build up a 13-2 lead with just under 3 minutes gone, with Hassan emphasising the point with a beautiful slam off a rebound.
It wasn’t just under the basket where everything was going right either. The first missed shot from downtown for the Lions - who’ve struggled with both making and defending three-point shots this season - came around the six-inute mark, but Owumi was waiting with a put-back.
With three minutes left in the first, Cheshire looked on the ropes as Hassan nailed a superb block, passing the ball up to Niktash who netted another three.
A breathless first quarter saw the Lions ahead 35-17 with Cheshire eyeing Niktash as the danger man. But it was Hassan who would keep the lead up in a second quarter where both teams tried to grab their breath.
By the end of the half, Niktash and Hassan had teamed up for a 32-point partnership that saw the home side up 60-42.
The second half was always going to struggle to live up to the first, but the Lions effectively shut out a Cheshire side that threw everything at trying to get a victory.
It wasn’t helped by officiating which saw the Lions in serious foul trouble for much of the second half. By the time Owumi took the first Lions free throw of the game with over half the third quarter gone, Cheshire had visited the line 18 times.
The Lions had moments of brilliant, entertaining play throughout the remaining two periods of play. The seventh of Zaire Taylor’s nine assists was a particular beauty, an alley-oop to the waiting Kai Williams.
The unstoppable force of the Lions was particularly evident as, with just under a minute and a half gone, Taylor hustled around the basket, beating player after player, keeping the ball despite being knocked to the floor and managing to pass to a waiting Niktash who easily sunk the three-point shot.
The Lions comfortably took the victory and will travel to Glasgow for a tricky end to the regular season.
The play-offs tip off on Friday, with the Lions likely to take on the Rocks or Sheffield at 7.30pm.