The London Lions eight game unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Worcester Wolves 77-86, at the Copper Box on Sunday night.
21 points for Justin Robinson and yet another double-double for Brandon Peel (15 points, 16 rebounds) weren’t enough to stop the visitors, who seemed able to draw fouls from anywhere on the court, running out 77-86 winners.
Wolves, who now own the head to head with the Lions, came into the game needing a win, having yet to qualify for the playoffs, whereas London came in with qualification secured and sitting in second place.
The Lions started strongly, thanks to Paul Guede who chalked up the first eight points – with a deep jump shot kicking proceedings, followed by back to back threes. Worcester looked determined however, and seconds after Cory Dixon took the lead to six, Worcester answered with a three to cut it in half.
But Robinson was back at it straight away, with a three of his own. Peel added to that with a layup to take the lead back up to eight. Jon Thompson and Robinson teamed up again shortly afterwards to put up five unanswered points to put the lead up still further to 11 points.
The lead seemed to hover around that point for much of the rest of the quarter – with both sides trading buckets, until Worcester gave a hint of what was to come with six unanswered points – three from free throws – which would bring the lead down to five: 27-22 to go into the second quarter.
That would be the last quarter the Lions would win.
The second quarter isn’t going to win any records for entertaining basketball. But the Wolves managed to slug out the additional five points they needed to go into the half break with the scores tied.
Scrappy play meant it took two minutes before either side got onto the score sheet. George Beamon with the layup that was answered just 20 seconds later by Peel. The Lions were keeping their heads above water – just, mostly thanks to Jerelle Okoro. But the free flowing basketball that they’ve been enjoying over the past few weeks was clearly missing, and that was frustrating the Lions who seemed to come out of challenges too often on the wrong end of a referee’s whistle.
With 3.42 left in the half, Worcester took the lead back, thanks to a three point shot from Dallin Bachynski, who was the joint top scorer for Worcester and, like Peel, put up a double-double (24 points, 13 rebounds).
Bachynski was back at it again, putting the lead up to four for the Wolves, before Robinson made the most of a Dixon steal to keep the lead at 2 with a minute and a half remaining of quarter 2.
With 30 seconds left of the half, Robinson stepped up again, netting a three that would see the sides go into the half tied 39-39.
Andre Lockhart did everything he could to get the Lions a chance to go in ahead, throwing his body into the action – and across the court – to prevent a scoring opportunity for the Wolves with 1.8 seconds of action remaining. But neither side could make the most of it.
Only two points would separate the sides in the third quarter (Wolves winning it 19-21), with the foul count against the Lions rising.
A Thompson layup with 12 seconds gone in the fourth quarter levelled things up (60-60), before Robinson made the most of an offensive rebound to give the Lions a two point lead. But the Wolves were keeping themselves in the game thanks to the charity stripe, and only Guede’s three points with 7.53 remaining in the game kept the Lions hanging on to a one point lead.
With 1.53 remaining, and three Lions already fouled out, neither side had managed to make a decent lead, but Alejandro Navajas sank a three for the Wolves to put them up by four. Three unanswered points – all courtesy of free throws – saw that lead rises to seven with 34 seconds remaining, before Okoro stepped up to make a jump shot that would stop the bleeding. It was really too little, too late for the Lions though, and four more free throws would end the game with the Wolves ahead by nine.
In all, the Lions went to the line 12 times, converting nine, while the Wolves had a whopping 35 visits, making 25.
Lions Scorers; Robinson 21, Thompson 15, Peel 15, Guede 13, Okoro 7, Dixon 6, Larkai 0, Lockhart 0, Ekperuoh 0, Roberts
Wolves Scorers; Bachynski 24, Palmer 24, Beamon 13
(Pic; Flo Larkai, Courtesy G. Hodges, Report; P. Groves)
The Lions next travel to Leicester on Friday before returning to the Copper Box for the last game of the regular season on Saturday April 28, against Manchester Giants. Tip off is at 7.30pm. Tickets are already on sale for the Quarter Finals of the BBL Playoffs which take place on the 6th of May at 4pm on the website at thelondonlions.com