London Lions were made to work hard against Cheshire Phoenix but survived to remain undefeated in week three of the British Basketball League.
In a closely-fought contest in Ellesmere Port, the London Lions edged Cheshire Phoenix 91-82 on Sunday evening.
Matt Morgan exploded for 33 points on 10/15 shooting along with eight rebounds as the Lions shot just under 50% to improve to 5-0 in the British Basketball League.
Cheshire Phoenix Starting Five: Laquincy Rideau, Maceo Jack, EJ Stephens, Aaryn Rai, Skyler White.
London Lions Starting Five: Gabe Olaseni, Mo Soluade, Connor Morgan, Tarik Philip, Matt Morgan.
Buoyed by a vocal home audience, the Phoenix showed no fear against the Lions, and quick scores inside gave them an early 6-2 lead as London were sluggish in the opening two minutes.
It was important for Cheshire not to let a team like London get into any rhythm, and despite five quick points from Matt Morgan, the Phoenix led 15-12 with more than four minutes left in the first.
The introduction of Donte Grantham and Luke Nelson into the London line-up found some success as the former drove straight down the hoop for the uncontested two-hand dunk, hoping to ignite energy the hosts previously denied them having.
However, the Phoenix kept the momentum for themselves as back-to-back triples from EJ Stephens and Ethan Chargois gave them a 24-16 lead after one.
But the first two minutes of the second saw London at their destructive best as the passes were flowing; the off-ball movement was fast and furious, finishing with solid execution.
And as a result, a corner three from Grantham gave last season’s treble winners a 27-26 lead.
Cheshire though weren’t going to go away, one of the most talked about teams so far in the opening weeks of the season, they kept going at London’s talented roster and last season’s National Basketball League, Division 1 MVP Aaryn Rai restored the hosts’ lead at 34-32 with 4:54 remaining in the half.
The lead ping-ponged around in the latter stages of the second but thanks to a three from the wing from Skyler White, that was what separated the two sides at the break with the Phoenix up 43-41.
Like the first half, both teams almost mirrored each other, offensively. With the biggest lead being just three points for either side. You had that feeling that the first team to blink and concede any sort of run would be chasing the game from then on.
The question was: who would be that team?
The Lions certainly made their move, as back-to-back triples from GB stars Mo Soluade and Nelson handed the visitors a 67-61 lead, forcing Phoenix coach Ben Thomas into a timeout with 1:22 left in the third.
However, the Phoenix refused to go away and as time wound down in the third, Stephens drilled a three from the wing off the feed from Jack Hudson to make it a three-point game heading into the fourth.
Now it was time for Cheshire to have their turn in this back-and-forth slugfest. Led by Cam Christon – who scored five quick points and took a charge in the space of a minute – gave the home side the lead and a bucket from Rai forced the Lions into a timeout with the Phoenix up 74-71 with 6:59 left.
Cheshire battled, however Matt Morgan found a way to step up for the Lions when they needed it most, with seven points and an assist for Grantham in the final three minutes to ultimately steer London to victory.
London’s Matt Morgan was tonight’s MVP. Morgan dropped his first 30-point game this season in a scintillating performance where he was perfect inside the perimeter and at the stripe for his 33-point haul (6/6 2-point; 9/9 FT).
|London Lions||Matt Morgan||33||8||3|
|London Lions||Donte Grantham||12||6||1|
|Cheshire Phoenix||Aaryn Rai||20||8||2|
|Cheshire Phoenix||Skyler White||12||4||2|
With the new season here, you can still get your British Basketball fix by following the League on social media or heading to our YouTube channel to relive all of the best moments from the current season.