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London Lions inflict loss on champions Leicester

PUBLISHED: 07:20 17 April 2017 | UPDATED: 07:20 17 April 2017

Action from London Lions clash with Leicester at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)

Action from London Lions clash with Leicester at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)

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London Lions 111 Leicester Riders 88

Rashad Hassan looks for a way through against Leicester (pic Graham Hodges)Rashad Hassan looks for a way through against Leicester (pic Graham Hodges)

Navid Niktash led the way as London Lions upset newly-crowned BBL champions Leicester at the Copper Box Arena on Easter Sunday.

Niktash finished the game shooting an outstanding 62 per cent from behind the three-point line, while team-mate Rashad Hassan poured in 22 points on 78 per cent from the field to prove why he is the league’s leading scorer.

The Lions showed up to play on the night with the team recording an impressive 61 per cent of field goals overall, shooting 67 per cent from two-point range and locking down a superb 54 per cent from the three-point line.

Coach Nigel Lloyd’s squad hit the floor against the Riders, who had a few key players missing, with high intensity in the first quarter and did a thoroughly professional job as a spread of scores saw the home side close out the quarter, 29-19 to the good.

Andre Lockhart attacks for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)Andre Lockhart attacks for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)

Contributions from all five Lions starters helped edge them over their opponents heading into the second quarter, as forwards Hassan and Niktash combined for 18 points and Kai Williams and Alex Owumi added three-pointers of their own.

Leicester fought back in the second quarter, outscoring the Lions 28-21 as the hosts hit foul trouble.

Connor Washington sparked a comeback with nine points for the Riders, with late free throws narrowing the deficit to three points at 50-47.

A whopping 18 fouls were called on the Lions to just six on the visitors, which made the game bitty and broken up which suited visiting coach Rob Paternostro and his men.

Kevin Moyo attacks for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)Kevin Moyo attacks for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)

Leicester’s comeback was unsuccessful, though, with Lions coming off the bench and stepping up with both guards, Kevin Moyo and Andre Lockhart combining for nine points.

Niktash carried his hot streak into the second, adding eight points to deny Riders the lead going into the second half.

Heading to the third quarter the Lions didn’t disappoint, as they built a comfortable lead going into the final session with a superb shooting display from beyond the arc as well as down low from an unstoppable Rashad Hasan.

Hassan was a force to be reckoned with, scoring eight in the low post and making it look easy, while Alex Owumi found his groove late in the third and scored seven points, most coming from behind the three-point line, to make it 82-65.

Joe Ikhinmwin aims for the basket (pic Graham Hodges)Joe Ikhinmwin aims for the basket (pic Graham Hodges)

London’s efforts in the final quarter proved to be too much for the Riders, with home players closing out and making strong defensive plays.

Owumi re-ignited the flame he had started in the third quarter, helping the Lions to run away with the lead and scored six more points from beyond the arc.

Elsewhere, Hassan was still going to work in scoring six points and was joined by Zaire Taylor scoring seven and Zak Wells tallying five to see the Lions to a much-needed win prior to the play-offs starting in two weeks.

The Lions play the Cheshire Phoenix on April 21 at the Copper Box in the last regular season home game, before heading off to Glasgow two days later.

They will then find out who their opponents will be in the first round of the play-offs on April 28 and tickets for Friday’s game as well as the play-offs are on sale at ticketmaster.co.uk.

Lions: Niktash 25, Taylor 17, Owumi 19, Hassan 22, Williams 6, Lockhart 5, Ikhinmwin 5, Moyo 7, Wells 5.

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