London Lions 75-60 Cheshire Phoenix (18-12, 33-32, 50-48)
(Lions: Hruban, 17; Nelson, 11; Soko/Zubcic, 9 — Phoenix: Teague/Anderson, 11; Neighbour, 10; Evans, 9)
Leicester Riders 102-89 Manchester Giants (27-23, 53-49, 83-67)
(Riders: Whelan/Jackson, 20; Nelson-Henry, 14; Walker, 11 — Giants: Lee, 23; Green, 21; Johnson, 11)
Newcastle Eagles 89-78 Bristol Flyers (23-19, 48-40, 68-60)
(Eagles: Cohn, 20; Kennedy, 17; Hamlet, 15 – Flyers: King, 20; Bell III, 19; Delpeche, 14)
But this latest win was far from a walkover. Fresh from Tuesday’s historic win in the EuroCup over Dolomiti Energia Trento, Lions looked to have been a little hungover from their midweek exploits.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras, Cheshire took the game to London and with two points separating the two teams going into the final period, the game was firmly in the balance.
However, a 12-2 start to the fourth quarter eased the nerves as London continue their strong start, with a gruelling schedule to come.
Czech Republic star Vojtech Hruban led the Lions with 17 points as all players managed to get on the scoresheet.
“We had a good rhythm, we’re down a few guys so I had to play a lot more with the ball,” Hruban said.
“I felt good, the guys started looking for me, I had the first couple of shots and the game became easier for me and in the end, I’m very happy.”
Both teams had no problems connecting from three-point land in the opening possessions, but the first quarter was marred by foul trouble, with neither London nor Cheshire able to find an offensive spark.
The Lions, thanks to seven points in the first from Hruban, paced his side to an 18-12 lead.
Will Neighbour, who had scored five points in the first against his old club got four quick points for the Phoenix in the early stages of the second and a transition slam from debutant Maceo Jack shrunk the gap to 21-18.
However, London maintained their advantage at the half thanks to the introduction of Bradley Kaboza, the former Barking Abbey star hit four points in the final 90 seconds to give his side a 33-32 advantage.
Cheshire kept knocking on the door though and their patience was rewarded in the early stages of the third as a triple from Tahjai Teague tied the game at 35-35, though Hruban quickly restored order for the Lions.
London looked to go up a gear as a three from Luke Nelson handed his side a five-point lead with 6:20 left, but despite going into the fourth quarter with the lead, the Lions were unable to shake the Phoenix off their shoulders.
The 12-2 run to start the final period though, put an end to a brave, but eventually fatigued Cheshire resistance.
Teague and Jamell Anderson both had 11 points to lead the visitors.
A closely contested battle was blown open in the third by the Riders, thanks to eight points in a minute from Patrick Whelan, ballooning Leicester’s lead from four to nine points, midway through the period.
Manchester, true to the exhilarating form they have provided fans with this season, tried to claw their way back, but Riders’ strength in numbers told.
Zach Jackson and Great Britain international Whelan led the way with 20 points each for the victors, who shot 56% from the field. The former pulled down 10 rebounds.
“We needed to get a good, comfortable win under our belt after last week, where we didn’t play well,” Whelan said.
“It feels great to be home, especially after spending the first three games on the road. We’ve been in and out of here for practice, so to play here feels so nice.”
Riders coach Rob Paternostro added: “It was great to be home, we were all looking forward to playing in the home arena.
“We’ve had great success in this arena and the guys were fired up to play.”
William Lee led all scorers in vain for the Giants with 23 points and seven rebounds.
Despite the loss, Manchester got off to a fast start as a three-pointer from Rahmon Fletcher and a dunk from Anthony Roberson gave the Giants an 11-2 cushion.
Leicester though, remained calm. A testament to their style of play under coach Paternostro and a 10-3 spurt was highlighted by a driving lay-up from Jackson.
The Giants’ hot start suddenly went cold as the first wound down and the Riders managed to take their first lead with 1:48 remaining thanks to a three from Whelan – one of his four triples – a lead they held on to heading into the second.
Leicester managed to extend their lead to double digits with three minutes played in the second. A triple from Kimbal McKenzie, followed by a score from Darien Nelson-Henry gave the hosts a 41-29 cushion.
Manchester though fought back once more, like they have done for most of this season when their backs are against the wall and a lay-up from Tahj Green narrowed the gap to 45-42.
The Riders, however, went into the half-time the stronger of the two teams, leading 53-49, thanks to a buzzer-beating triple by Whelan.
That sparked a spell from the Riders that proved too much for the Giants, not helped by the scoring onslaught of Whelan who scored eight of his 20 points in the third to hand Leicester an 83-67 lead, which they never looked back from.
A sigh of relief for head coach Marc Steutel and the Eagles fans without question as they put in a polished shift against one of the league’s early front-runners.
Eagles, led by 20 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting along with nine assists from David Cohn, shot 55% from the field.
For Bristol, they will look to their poor shooting night as the determining factor for their first loss of the season. They shot just 38% from the field including going 4/29 from three-point land.
Eagles were solid to start with three-pointers from Cohn and Ben Mockford putting them in the ascendency. Bristol though were able to tie the game at 8-8 thanks to a mix of inside play and transition basketball.
The hosts though were eager to build a comfortable lead and a Kennedy dunk gave the Eagles a bit of breathing room at 14-10 and despite Bristol clawing their way back, Newcastle hung on to lead 23-19 after one.
A three from Donovan Johnson within the first two minutes of the second extended Newcastle’s lead to 28-21, the biggest of the game at that point as Bristol’s shooting woes became evident.
And as a result, Eagles went into the break, leading by eight points, with Bristol only 2/17 from deep.
Flyers though fought back in the early stages of the third, before a highlight alley-oop lobbed by Cohn and finished by Duke Shelton gave Eagles a 52-46 advantage.
A three-point play from VJ King, narrowed the deficit to just a single point with 3:17 left in the third as Bristol were looking to make their move. But Eagles, found their wings once and for all.
An 11-2 run from Newcastle gave them a double-digit lead, which ultimately was enough for them to seal their first win of the season.
King led the Flyers with 20 points as their home comforts were solely missed on the road.
The action will continue on Sunday in the BBL. Make sure you don’t miss any of the action and subscribe to our YouTube channel here.