The London Lions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to a heroic late push to force overtime, and a massive 31 points from Matthew Morgan.
Despite being down 12 to the Manchester Giants in the fourth, the home team rallied behind a loud Copper Box crowd, with Jordan Taylor hitting a game-tying three and Matthew Morgan putting the team ahead in the extra frame.
London Lions starting five:
Gabe Olaseni, Jordan Taylor, Conor Morgan, Ciaran Sandy, Matthew Morgan
Manchester Giants starting five:
Legend Robertin, Jalen Harris, William Lee, Jamell Anderson, Nicholas Lewis
Early turnovers and fouls by the London Lions gave the Manchester Giants the opportunity to get out ahead in the first quarter, especially with hot shooting from William Lee early, who hit back-to-back buckets, including a three.
His Giants teammate Evan Walshe was coming off a big game over the Surrey Scorchers last week, and he came off the bench to score 4 quick points. He followed it up with a sweet step-back mid-ranger in the lane to give Manchester an eight-point lead.
A full-court press by the Giants helped pressure the Lions, especially after London point guard Luke Nelson picked up his third foul and a technical foul within three minutes of game time to head to the bench.
Walshe made the most of less defensive intensity, and found his way into the lane for another couple of tough buckets.
The ever reliable London defence locked in to slow the Manchester momentum.
But London needed someone to step up big on offence, and big man Conor Morgan was the man to do it. He hit a three to cut the deficit to six, and then made the most of his size in the paint to get to the free throw line to reduce the gap to four.
After hitting another triple, Conor handed over to the other Morgan, Matthew, who started dancing in the final minute of the half – he lost his defender and stepped back behind the three-point line to bring his Lions within one to close the second quarter.
You can’t teach height, and London usually has more size than most teams in the British Basketball League, but 7ft 1in Legend Robertin is a Giant for Manchester, and his alley-oop slamability was successful on multiple occasions.
Mid-way through the third quarter, Nicholas Lewis found him to push the lead back up to seven for the visitors.
Manchester’s Jamell Anderson has been one of the best defensive players in the league since he turned professional in 2009, and he frustrated Conor Morgan into an offensive infringement to pick up his fourth foul while backing down in the post.
On the other end, his teammates were heating up, including a scorching step-back in the lane from Nicholas Lewis.
Mason Bourcier then took over: He scored an unusual, spinning drive while getting fouled; followed this up with a missed three-point attempt, but was fouled while getting his own offensive rebound and nailed the free throws; and he stole the ball to broke loose for a layup – wrapping up 7 quick points before the end of the third, with Manchester up 62-52.
Jordan Taylor knows when the London Lions need him to step up, and down by 14, he found a few to get to the mid-range for a rough jumper.
This inspired Matt Morgan to a big three, and Nelson to a dribble fadeaway to bring the Lions within single digits.
The home team continued to chip away, but a loose pass fell between two Lions and Nicholas Lewis put on the jets to chase down the opportunity and secure a layup – keeping his Giants ahead by eight.
A nervy few minutes saw Manchester struggle to inbound the ball under London’s pressure and give away a couple of late buckets while the Lions pulled within three.
With 3.4 second left in the game, for the second time in a couple of weeks, Jordan Taylor hit a three to force overtime. He in-bounded the ball to Conor Morgan, received it back then launched a fadeaway going left – kissing it off the glass to force another frame.
The might of London held firm as the trusted head of Gabe Olaseni got to the bucket for the first points of extra innings.
Aside from a three-point shot for the Giants by Anderson, the Lions kept scoring, with Conor Morgan hitting a three, and Matt Morgan sticking the dagger in at the free throw line to put them up by seven.
Player of the Game
Matthew Morgan was a consistent player for big-time plays, keeping the London Lions within touching distance and eventually helping them secure victory with late free throws in overtime.