London Lions 63-65 Leicester Riders (14-14, 31-24, 45-49)
The London Lions battled hard into a tense finale as Leicester Riders grabbed the points with a last second basket to seal the win on the buzzer at the Copper Box.
Both teams entered the game with just one league defeat and the Riders’ victory moves them to 5-1 as the Lions though stay top, drop to 9-2 as their winning run ends one short of a new club record of consecutive victories.
It was nip and tuck to start the game as Riders got off the mark first before Kervin Bristol thumped down a dunk of an assist from Jordan Spencer, Brandon Peel and Ladarius Tabb both scored but Burnett and Douse responded for the visitors as the tough duel was tied on Burnett’s two free throws at the end of the first quarter 14-14.
A 13-2 start to the second quarter put the Lions ahead in a low-scoring first half. The home side were forcing turnovers and converting at the other end. Both Coaches used time out’s to control the play but it was the Lions that went into the locker room up at the half, 31-24.
The Riders took over in the third, as fouls mounted up for the home side, frustrations boiled over on some calls and no calls. The Riders would attempt 29 free throws in the game to the Lions’ 12, despite constant driving to the basket from Justin Robinson and Tabb.
The third quarter ended up being the Riders’ best as they won that 14-25, leaving the score at 45-49 going into the decisive phase.
Having held their visitors to a blank at the three-point line in the first half, a barrage of three’s looked like they would do for the Lions as Riders opened up a 9-point lead at 46-55 with 6 minutes to play on the back of an unlikely Josh Hibbert three pointer.
A change from the Lions saw Jerelle Okoro come in and the Lions defence would not concede another field goal till the last shot of the match, however free throws kept the Riders in it. First Tabb, then Andre Lockhart then Okoro himself scored, the last two being three pointers, that made it 56-59 with 2 minutes left, a steal and score from Tabb and we were in a one-point game, 58-59.
Four Riders free throws, reopened the gap before Tabb again stole the ball and hit before Lockhart stole it and fed Tabb for the dunk, 62-63 with 37 seconds left. Time out Riders. Coach Rob Paternostro elected to take the ball in his back court whilst Coach Macaulay elected not to foul, his team locked down and forced a turnover with 13 seconds and chance to tie or win.
A well worked play saw Robinson pop to the shirt corner but his effort missed, and Bristol grabbed the rebound and was fouled, he made one of two to tie the game at 63.
The Riders out of their time out, found Burnett denied so the ball went to JR Holder who tussled with Tabb before turning left to the basket and had to shoot, his shot just a millimetre from being blocked by Bristol hit high on the back board and dropped in on the buzzer for the win.
Burnett starred with a game-high 22 points to help the Riders through their early offensive struggles, Holder the only other Rider in double figures, Tabb led with 18 for Lions whilst Robinson had 13 and Bristol came up with 13 rebounds.
The next action for the Lions will be on the 7th of December in Newcastle for the first leg of the BBL Cup Semi-final then at home on the 9th for the second leg.
Lions scorers – Tabb 18, Robinson 13, Guede 8, Peel 8, Lockhart 8, Bristol 4, Okoro 3, Larkai 1, Spencer 0, Ikhinmwin, James, Badibo
Riders Scorers – Burnett 22, JR Holder 10, Washington 9