Club Joventut Badalona 89-78 London Lions (19-12, 20-19, 25-27, 25-20)
Badalona – Tomic 16, Ellenson 14, Feliz/Guy 13; Lions – Zubcic 19, Best 18, Taylor 14
Cheshire Phoenix 105-81 Surrey Scorchers (28-21, 34-27, 23-22, 20-11)
Phoenix – Austin 25, Archibald 21, Jack 17; Scorchers – Steel 17, Lawrence 13, Carey/McFolley 11
The London Lions made a valiant run to 7Days EuroCup playoffs this season, but it drew to a close with a 89-78 loss to Joventut Badalona in Spain.
With Sam Dekker hobbled, Tomislav Zubcic led the BBL side, who fought until the end of a physical game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a top seed and go through to the next stage.
Meanwhile, BBL competition continued on domestic soil as Cheshire Phoenix relied on strong home support to hold off a strong third quarter charge from the Surrey Scorchers and claim a 105-81 victory.
Strong defence slowed the visitors to Cheshire Oaks Arena, but Larry Austin filled up the stat sheet for the home team with 25 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists.
Joventut Badalona scored nine unanswered points before the London Lions got on the scoresheet to start the first round of the playoffs at the Palau Olimpic De Badalona.
It was a pair of free throws from London’s Tomislav Zubcic, which was soon followed by Jordan Taylor that got the scoring going
Sam Dekker was the first BBL player to score a field goal, which was a full court drive into the heart of the Spanish defence – typical aggressive play from the best scorer in Europe.
Still struggling from the field, the Lions turned up their own defence by staying at home on Badalona’s three-point shooters.
This meant Joventut big man Joel Parra was in an advantageous position to grab offensive rebounds. The home crowd got behind this and it resulted in a Andres Feliz three to go up 15-6.
Miye Oni got a dunk for the Lions after his full-court defence that pestered the ball away from Ante Tomic. Oni followed this up with a three, and the first quarter closed 19-12.
Each team traded baskets to start the second quarter but the home team adjusted to the defensive principles of the visitors.
Badalona’s Kyle Guy started attacking the rim and was rewarded with points and foul shots. It put his team up 10 mid-way through the frame, which soon expanded to 16.
Henry Ellenson was called for an unsportsmanlike foul for Joventut, after the big man spun into Taylor’s face with his elbow. This wiped off a made basket, and sent Taylor to the free throw line.
The Lions then kept the ball and ran a well executed out-of-timeout possession that saw Luke Nelson attack the lane and kick out to Taylor for three on the perimeter, closing London’s deficit to just 39-31 at the half.
Physicality from the first half carried over into the opening few minutes of the third quarter.
Badalona stripped the ball from London’s Aaron Best, who scrapped to get the ball back and fouled Feliz in the process.
Feliz and Best went back and forth again: Joventut’s guard hit a floater on a cut through the lane. And Best got the better of his opponent by cutting backdoor and getting an easy layup.
The Lions hardly committed a foul in the second quarter, but they opened the third with five in the first five minutes, including an offensive foul on Sharma that became a technical.
It felt like the momentum was with London offensively, but the Badalona free throws kept them ahead, and they entered the final 10 minutes with the home team up 64-58.
The Lions zoned up but Joventut’s Ante Tomic cut through the middle of the lane and found Ellenson in the dunker’s spot for a layup.
Tomic then got his own bucket by receiving the ball at the top of the key and driving to get the score and the foul.
This changed London’s tactics into a full-court trap. They stole it for a Dekker dunk on the first occasion, and another steal led to another Dekker dunk, but he landed gingerly.
The gap was cut to eight by Taylor, but Badalona scored back-to-back and Lions coach Ryan Schmidt pulled Dekker with nearly four minutes to go.
London continued to battle, but they couldn’t close the gap to less than nine in the closing minutes.
It drew a great 7Days EuroCup campaign to an end for the Lions, who were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
At the Cheshire Oaks Arena in BBL Championship action, Amorie Archibald made a big early impression for the home team.
He scored seven points in the first five minutes for the Cheshire Phoenix, including a tough acrobatic layup.
Boban Jacdonmi came in for the Surrey Scorchers and made an immediate impact, getting an assisted layup as soon as he entered the game.
He then followed up a miss with one of his signature offensive rebound put-backs that started a comeback after a slow start. Despite this, Cheshire finished the opening frame up 28-21.
The first few minutes of the second quarter was all Marcus Evans – he hit three threes, and the rest of the team followed his lead.
Larry Austin also scored from long distance, but they were all assisted by various Phoenix players, who were putting on a great exhibition of coach Ben Thomas’ drive-and-kick offence.
It was also a strong defensive effort by Cheshire. They made passing inside difficult by tipping or delaying entry.
A few of them resulted in steals for Austin and Jamell Anderson. The latter resulted in an early look in the paint for David Ulph – and Cheshire were up by 21 points.
Scorchers coach Lloyd Gardner called a timeout to address the deficit, and this awoke Josh Steel.
He scored eight points in the closing two minutes to reduce the deficit to 14 before the halftime buzzer, which went off with the scoreboard at 62-48.
The defensive intensity carried over into the second half for Cheshire. Anderson got a huge block that created an Austin layup.
Anderson’s long arms tipped the ball away from the passing lane the next time down, which got Maceo Jack an open dunk that pushed the lead back up to 20.
Josh McFolley led a third-quarter comeback for Surrey. With three minutes to go, he followed up a layup with a quick steal and another play at the basket.
He then found Steel on the perimeter for a three, and managed another assist to Kyle Carey that cut the Scorchers’ deficit to 10.
More thievery helped Cheshire push their lead back up – first Austin and then Ulph – but even when they weren’t stealing it, the home team were getting stops and scored every time on offence.
When the ball bobbled to Archibald for a defensive rebound, the lane opened up for him to make an end-to-end run that led to a layup, which put Cheshire up by 25, and it reached 29 by the end of the game.
The win keeps the race for fourth a tight affair, and Cheshire will face a tough task if they want to keep hopes alive of securing it by travelling to Bristol on Friday to face the Flyers.
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