London Lions 84-88 Cheshire Phoenix (25-23, 42-46, 66-65)
Cheshire Phoenix didn’t read the script as they took an impressive victory live on BBC Sport to deny what London Lions had hoped would be their first ever BBL Championship title.
It had looked like Lions would record a major slice of history, but celebrations were put on ice as Phoenix further boosted their benecos BBL Play-Off prospects with a late surge.
The Phoenix had started fast in the first quarter, but Lions matched them as reigning MVP, Justin Robinson and Andre Lockhart kept the scoreboard moving. Great defence was restricting Cheshire marksman, Latinovic, but Daniel Norl was carrying on from his impressive performance in their victory over Manchester. Joe ikhinmwin and Paul Guede injected some much needed urgency in the quarter. However Lions led after the first 25-23.
Excellent scoring from Norl and relentless offensive rebounding from the Phoenix allowed them to edge ahead. The huge home crowd were enthralled if a little nervous as the lead shifted both ways. A late three in the corner gave the visitors a 42-46 lead into the locker room.
On the resumption Lions looked a little sharper and quickly wrested the lead back, both teams slugged at each other with the Lions one point to the good entering the fourth.
At 78-72, on the back of two Ikhinmwin free throws, in the fourth, Lions looked firmly on course to lift some precious BBL silverware, but Cheshire then scored 12 straight points in what was a nightmare drought and at the worst possible time for the hosts. 78-84 with 30 seconds left. A score from Robinson then a steal from Spencer saw him run up and score making it 82-84, but two Norl free throws followed, despite another Lockhart score, Lions had to foul meaning another two from the line and that’s how it ended, 84-88.
Daniel Norl, erupted for 30 points whilst CJ Gettys was a towering figure with a commanding double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Robinson had 28 in a losing effort with Brandon peel hitting 14.
The Lions now travel to Newcastle on Friday before returning to the Copper Box on Sunday for the final regular season game of the season.
Lions scorers -Robinson 28, Peel 14, Spencer 14, Lockhart 10, Ikhinmwin 7, Bristol 6, Guede 3, Tabb 2, Okoro 0, James 0, Roberts .
Phoenix Scorers – Norl 30, Gettys 19, Latinovic 8, Allen-Jordan 8