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London Lions clip eagles wings to clinch play-off spot

PUBLISHED: 08:34 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:34 06 April 2017

London Lions got the better of Newcastle at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)

London Lions got the better of Newcastle at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)

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London Lions 93 Newcastle Eagles 85

A double-double from Rashad Hassan saw the London Lions clinch a BBL play-off spot after beating Newcastle at the Copper Box Arena last night.

The Lions, who’ve struggled in form over the past few months, started the game as underdogs, having been soundly defeated in Cheshire on Sunday.

But it looked a different team that ran out to face Newcastle and in a game that was by turns scrappy and utterly thrilling, the Lions were strong under the baskets, getting 49 rebounds, while forcing foul after foul that saw them going to the free throw line 31 times.

Alongside Hassan’s 18 points and 14 rebounds, Kai Williams had a brilliant night, proving effective at both ends of the court and chalking up 18 points.

The Lions’ start didn’t look promising ad they looked shellshocked as Newcastle piled point after point on.

Halfway through the first quarter the Lions were down by double figures and another defeat looked on the cards.

But as the quarter wore on, a London team that hasn’t been seen for some months sparked into life.

The comeback was led by Williams who, in a beautiful sequence, drained a three, battled back on to defence to steal the ball and then get back to the basket to be the recipient of another steal, this time from Zaire Taylor.

With just under three minutes to go in the first period, Alex Owumi sunk a three-pointer to even the game. A timeout took the wind out of the Lions sails temporarily and a scrappy period of play followed that left the Eagles up by three.

Newcastle were already piling on the fouls though, and the lead switched around as both teams scrapped around for the advantage.

Joe Hart demonstrated the struggles Newcastle were having with the Copper Box court, passing the ball to Lions coach Nigel Lloyd off the inbound.

And Lions steadily built up the lead, stealing the ball and pressuring the Newcastle defence to go into the half up by nine, when it should have been double figures but for the referees missing an obvious goal tend.

The third quarter has been something of a disaster for the Lions this season, but it was Newcastle that seemed to struggle, continuing to pile on the fouls as the hosts piled on the points.

By the time the third quarter was over, the Lions were still holding on to their nine-point lead.

Newcastle are a strong team and came out fighting in what would be a tense and thrilling fourth quarter, by the middle of which the gap was down to three, before the Lions recovered with seconds left on the clock as Navid Niktash scored a corner three.

Desperate attempts from Newcastle to foul and regain the ball proved fruitless and the Lions held on for a deserved victory ahead of their Easter Sunday meeting with Leicester at the Copper Box (4pm).

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