London Lions 80-75 Dolomiti Energia Trento (21-27, 41-44, 58-60)
(Lions – Soko 22, Hruban 17, Zubcic 13; Trento – Flaccadori 17, Crawford 17, Spagnolo 14)
London Lions recorded their first ever win in the EuroCup in a close game against Italian side Dolomiti Energia Trento, in front of a raucous crowd at the Copper Box. This result was not only a massive win for the Londoners, but for British basketball in general, representing the country’s first win in Europe’s second-tier competition since 2004.
In stark contrast to last week, Lions started the game full of confidence and intensity – off the back of their undefeated start to the BBL season – despite missing two of their biggest stars in Sam Dekker and Kosta Koufos. Coach Schmidt said his team will run plays through their captain Ovie Soko and that’s exactly what they did. With Soko on fire to start the game, Lions led by as many as three points (11-8) in the first five minutes, with the number 0 scoring eight of those.
After Trento re-took the lead, Soko once again stepped forward and dunked with authority, bringing his team to within one, before getting the defensive rebound off the missed shot and assisting Vojtech Hruban for the 3-pointer, to give London the lead again (16-14).
The Italians had a star of their own however, with Drew Crawford – who is celebrating his 32nd birthday today – lighting it up from behind the arc, with 2/2 in the first quarter, including a 4-point play.
Despite the visitors starting the second period with three turnovers in as many possessions, the American shooting guard continued his hot streak with another 4-point play – giving his team their highest lead of the game of six points (27-33).
Lions however continued showing great hustle and intensity – as they had all game so far – and after Luke Nelson drained a 3, Tomislav Zubcic stole the ball and dunked it on the transition to bring it back to a one-point game (32-33).
That’s when Crawford stepped up again with another 3-pointer, bringing his total to 4/4 and 16 points in the game, giving his team a two-possession lead (35-39). Nelson didn’t want to let Crawford get all the credit however and with his third 3-pointer of the night (3/4), helped keep the Lions close, with the home team going behind at the break 41-44.
The second half started very differently to the first, with both teams seeming nervous and missing a lot of shots, with the score just 3-3 after nearly four minutes. That’s when things started to pick up though, first with a Trento 3 and then with Soko who put up a desperation 3-pointer, as the shot clock was expiring and banked it in, bringing his total to 16 points and 10 rebounds (being the only player on both teams to record a double-double).
Diego Flaccadori wasn’t going to let the British side get back into it though and gave his team their highest lead of the game of eight points (47-55) after draining another 3 – making 5/7 in the game on 17 points.
The 3-point show continued for both teams with excellent percentages, as the two sides exchanged long range shots, first Matteo Spagnolo for Trento and then Zubcic for London, with the score 58-60 going into the final quarter and both teams shooting above 50% respectively from behind the arc (52% and 58%).
Hruban continued his brilliant 3-point shooting at the start of the final quarter, giving his team the lead for the first time since the opening period (61-60), before making another one on the very next possession. The Czech forward had astonishing long-range percentages, shooting 5/7 from the 6.75metre line.
The W seemed to be slipping away from London in the final four minutes however, after Nelson turned the ball over and Spagnolo dunked it on the fast break, giving the Italians a six-point lead (68-74). The Londoners went on a 6-0 run however, capped off by Soko’s two free throws and tied it at 74 apiece, before another two free throws by the Team GB star put his side up 76-74 with just 45 seconds left to play – off the back of an 8-0 run.
Lions were not going to let the lead slip away and with the two teams sending each other to the free throw line, the home side were the ones who made no mistakes and managed to get that all important Dub – marking their first EuroCup win in their history and a first for a British side since 2004. Trento on the other hand continued a dreadful away form of not having won in the EuroCup on their travels in nearly two years and are without a win in general in 11 months.
Next up for Lions in Europe is a trip to the Canary Islands next Wednesday (October 26) to face Gran Canaria, before heading to Wembley Arena on Tuesday (November 1) to face Buducnost. To get your tickets and secure your place at yet another massive night for British basketball, click HERE.