The London Lions returned to winning ways with an 89-79 road victory over the Leicester Riders in Friday night British Basketball League clash.
Leicester Riders starting five: Kimbal Mackenzie, Miryne Thomas, TJ Lall, Mo Walker, Jaren Holmes
London Lions starting five: Gabe Olaseni, Jordan Taylor, Conor Morgan, Kareem Queeley, Matthew Morgan
The London Lions entered this rivalry match with something to prove, as they aimed to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles – their second of the season. Though they would remain atop the table regardless of the result, they knew that a loss would create league-wide optimism of a genuine title race.
The Leicester Riders certainly hoped to avenge last season’s Playoff Final loss, as they welcomed the champions to the Morningside Arena. Though they sit in seventh place, Rob Paternostro’s team started the night two wins away from the top four, with the chance to push for home court advantage in the playoffs.
Establishing stability is key for the Midlands outside, having recently ended a three-game losing streak with a win against the Manchester Giants.
Many had anticipated a close contest and that’s exactly how it played out in the early stages. The teams went blow for blow throughout the opening quarter, exchanging leads frequently.
Kareem Queeley made a positive scoring start for the Lions and veteran guard Conner Washington brought a tremendous offensive spark off the bench for Leicester.
London started to pull away from the Riders in the second quarter however, scoring by committee with Donte Grantham and Conor Morgan getting in on the action.
Morgan’s excellent shooting played a huge part in widening the gap, as he posed a significant threat from beyond the arc and finished the half 4-4 from three. Returning from an ankle injury, Sam Dekker brought assurance from the bench when called upon.
Despite a bright start from the home side, the Lions entered the break with comfortable 16-point lead.
The Lions came out flying in the second half, sharing the ball excellently and playing hard-nosed defence to force Leicester into a series of avoidable turnovers. The only positive for the Riders at this juncture was that they consistently dominated the boards throughout.
Jaren Holmes leads Leicester in scoring with 14.1 points per game, so when he enjoyed a scoring burst early in the third, the Riders seemed to have a fighting chance. But as they so often have this season, the Lions delivered with unwavering confidence.
The Riders hustled hard to bring deficit momentarily into single digits, with scoring charges from Samuel Idowu and Kimbal Mackenzie, but they were simply overwhelmed by London wide array of offensive options.
Josh Sharma joined the party with a perfect scoring performance and the Lions had regained authority.
Despite a valiant effort to make it a competition, Leicester couldn’t keep up with London, who headed back to the capital with a ten-point W.
Player of the Game:
Tonight’s Player of the Game was Conor Morgan, who scored 19 points in an almost-perfect shooting performance, while also grabbing seven rebounds and an assist.