Promitheas Patras 67-77 London Lions (18-25, 36-40, 55-54)
(Patras: Kulboka, 18; Simpson, 16; Gkikas, 9 — Lions: Dekker, 20; Hruban, 14; Best, 13)
With the game tied at 64-64 midway through the final period, it was all about who could keep their cool in a fiercely competitive encounter that looked to go to the wire.
However, Patras coach Yannis Christpoulos was unable to remain calm and his ejection proved to be the fall of the Greek side, who were 4-2 before tonight.
Smelling blood, Lions responded with a 13-3 finish, executing at both ends of the floor to improve to 4-3 in EuroCup, Group B.
Sam Dekker paced the winners with 20 points, going 9/13 from the field along with six rebounds, supported by 14 for Vojtech Hruban.
Arnoldas Kulboka had 18 points to lead Patras, who, like London, go to 4-3.
Dekker and Aaron Best got things going for London from outside early as they found solace from the three-point line, while Kosta Koufos, who hit his first three field goal attempts, kept the Lions ahead.
But the visitors were having trouble containing Trevis Simpson in the first quarter as the Patras American scored nine points to give his side a brief lead.
Emphatically, Dekker responded immediately with a one-hand slam to restore order.
With Lions needing a spark off the bench, they looked no further than Hruban, as he connected on back-to-back three-pointers to hand London an eight-point advantage before settling for a 25-18 cushion after one.
That cushion, though, was made uncomfortable in the opening stages of the second as back-to-back three-pointers from Kulboka narrowed the gap to a point.
The mini ambush was thwarted thanks to Luke Nelson but London’s start to the second quarter was certainly a little nervous, with two turnovers and needless fouls given away within the first two minutes.
Thankfully for coach Schmidt’s side, they hung on with baskets from Josh Sharma and Dekker, restoring a sizable lead.
Despite the advantage, the Lions gave their Greek counterparts opportunities to claw their way back through fouls, missed field goal attempts and turnovers.
And as the half drew to a close, six points in less than two minutes from Vassilis Mouratos made it a one-possession game before Mo Soluade scored on the buzzer to hand London a 40-36 lead.
Missing former Indiana Pacers star and EuroCup leading talisman Joe Young, a burning question was how Patras would respond. Ranked fourth in scoring at 85 points a game, other players needed to step up.
That man was Nikolaos Gkikas, who hit eight points in the third period to give Patras the boost they needed and, as a reward, a 49-45 lead with 4:22 left.
Lions responded towards the end of the third, thanks to Best and Sharma, but Kulboka’s 16 points were instrumental as Patras’ sneaked in-front heading into the fourth.
The final ten was nervy with the overall lead becoming a game of tug of war between the two sides, eager to climb the table.
Nearing the final four minutes, London attacked and made their chances count at the foul line, followed by a score by Hruban to put the visitors further in-front 69-64 with 3:24 remaining.
The Lions cause was helped when Patras coach Christopoulos was ejected in his first game in charge of the team following the resignation of Makis Giatras due to health reasons.
And just to halt any sort of fightback, Best put the the game to bed as he drained a triple with less than a minute left to secure a third straight victory.
London now can enjoy a mini break, before going again on Sunday away to the Cheshire Phoenix. Get your tickets to that game HERE.