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Phoenix rise to send London Lions to late loss

PUBLISHED: 15:26 26 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 26 March 2017

Zaire Taylor looks for a way through for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)

Zaire Taylor looks for a way through for London Lions (pic Graham Hodges)

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London Lions 86 Cheshire Phoenix 87

Alex Owumi looks for a way through for London Lions against Cheshire (pic Graham Hodges)Alex Owumi looks for a way through for London Lions against Cheshire (pic Graham Hodges)

A late game-winner by Cheshire’s Mike DiNunno sent London Lions to a slender BBL loss at the Copper Box after an intense fourth quarter from both teams.

Guard DiNunno sunk the decisive three-pointer with two seconds left to win the game as the Lions fell short, but arguably his three-pointer 26 seconds earlier which tied the game was probably more important.

It was a full-on battle between point guards as Zaire Taylor and DiNunno went head to head, with London’s Taylor prevailing initially on the score sheet with 21 points and 11 assists with his crossover move proving too much to handle and his ability to finish at the basket in difficult situations.

However, Dinunno came up trumps as he marshalled his men through difficult situations and with the game on the line hit two phenomenal shots to ultimately decide the encounter.

London Lions fans look on at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)London Lions fans look on at the Copper Box (pic Graham Hodges)

Valiant efforts by forwards Navid Niktash and Rashad Hassan, as well as Taylor, were in vain for the Lions, who led for the majority of the game after a strong 29-21 first quarter.

The Lions were a force to be reckoned with inside the key, as Rashad Hassan notched a double-double with 24 points and an outstanding 18 rebounds.

Hassan was joined by team-mate Niktash scoring 24 points and grabbing six rebounds, but with 19 points at half time and shooting almost 80 per cent from the field you felt he should have received the ball more in the second half.

Coach Nigel Lloyd’s side were able to close down DiNunno after his impressive performance against Sheffield and Newcastle last week, but found themselves in foul trouble every quarter except for the first.

Rashad Hassan in action for London Lions against Cheshire (pic Graham Hodges)Rashad Hassan in action for London Lions against Cheshire (pic Graham Hodges)

The third quarter proved the Lions undoing as Allen-Jordan for Phoenix racked up the points and the home offence dried up.

Alex Owumi’s foul trouble proved problematic as he seemed unable to concentrate, becoming argumentative at every call, and losing the quarter 26-16 laid the foundations for a tense and absorbing final stanza.

The sides went toe-to-toe coming into the final minute of the match, with both fighting for a win.

Taylor scored 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter with some game-changing free throws rallying the Lions to what seemed like a secured win.

London Lions Navid Niktash looks innocent (pic Graham Hodges)London Lions Navid Niktash looks innocent (pic Graham Hodges)

But it wasn’t to be and the Lions are now placed fifth in the table, just above the Worcester Wolves who have beaten them in all previous meetings.

With only eight games left the Lions could still finish in the top four, but they must start closing out games after a fifth loss by four points or less.

They visit Manchester Giants on Sunday (5pm), before returning to the Copper Box to face the Newcastle Eagles on Wednesday April 5.

Tickets are available on ticketmaster.co.uk.

Lions scorers: Hassan 24, Niktash 24, Taylor 21, Williams 8, Owumi 7, Wells 2, Ikhinmwin 0, Lockhart 0, Moyo 0.

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