The London Lions fell short in their match up with Lithuanian side, Neptunas Klaipeda in a tense, close affair shown live on the BBC.
The first quarter started really well for the visitors, as Deandre Liggins finished in traffic to create an early and one followed by Kevin Ware, Justin Robinson and Byron Mullens who were all able to create pressure on the Lithuanians. Early fouls on Kervin Bristol meant he went back to the bench early. Ware with four points, and Robinson and Mullens both adding important three-point shots, leaving Mullens with six at the first, and Robinson with five.
Their opponents were getting good looks at the three point line but were themselves sporadic in connecting.
The Lions were playing with confidence, and defensively looked solid as Neptunas probed at the end of the quarter, it was a close 21-24 game.
The second quarter was a duel as both sides ebbed and flowed, the lead going out to 8 points for Neptunas before the Lions rallied. Kervin Bristoladded the first points of the quarter for the Lions from mid-range before Robinson added five with a layup and a huge three, to leave the battling visitors only down by one.
6 unanswered points from Neptunas looked like a breakthrough, but the, the Lions answered back before the end of the quarter, as Ware dunked it and Bristol hit mid range efforts. An 8-3 Lions run saw them only trail 38-40 at the halfway mark.
The third quarter was epic, Lions hit first and as they clawed their way along there was huge scuffle between Mullens and Neptunas player, Metrikas, the Lithuanian had clearly struck Mullens in the face. The referees consulted video replay and gave an unsportsmanlike foul where they could have disqualified Metrikas after the hit in the face.
Mullens made both free throws as the Lions gained momentum. A beautiful Mullens dish to a cutting Matthew Bryan-Amaning saw the Londoner slam home. Liggins, now struggling with a dislocated finger, hit a mid range, 45 apiece.
Bryan-Amaning began to take over for the Lions, as he added two fantastic finishes in the post, along with a huge three-pointer from captain Joe Ikhinmwin and a fantastic coast to coast layup from Ware to see the sides go in level at 54 at the end of the third quarter.
The game had become a one-quarter shoot out for a place in the final of the Basketball Champions League Qualifiers.
The Lions pressed in the fourth quarter, Stephen Brown brought energy as Joe Ikhinmwin brought poise, hitting a step aside triple and making a tough finish under illegal foul pressure.
Bryan-Amaning continued his domination, as he continued to add points in the paint that kept the Lions in the lead.
A Neptunas time out resulted in them setting up a 1-2-2 zone press which slowed the Lions down as they became passive. The Lithuanians had a six point lead, before Robinson added three points as the ball bounced off the rim, onto the top of the backboard and when Dirk Williams hitting a clutch three to tie the game at 73 each.
A score for Neptunas on a contested call meant the Lions had 17 seconds to tie or win. Out of the time out, the Lions weaved their players but entered into Amaning in the low post, the games leading scorer bobbed and weaved, found Robinson who gave it back and as the centre turned to finish, he was clearly held by Giga of Neptunas but to the Lions dismay, no call was made and the ball given the other way, having to foul now, it became a 4 point game and the Lions could not get back.
The dream of BCL action in this first year of Europe was over, now it would be off to the FIBA Europe Cup where three teams await in Group E. Fribourg (Switzerland), Dnipro (Ukraine) and Anwil (Poland),
In the game, Bryan-Amaning added a 16 points and 9 boards for the Lions, five of these coming off the offensive glass, as he sparked the revival of the Lions in the third quarter and continued into the fourth.
His dominant display was one of the main reasons for the Lions staying in the game for the full distance, but he was helped by Mullens adding ten points and eight rebounds, Justin Robinson adding thirteen points, and although he faced struggles with his shot on the night, Ware adding eight points, six rebounds and four assists.
(Report; Duncan Hooper, Pic; Kevin Ware by Carol Moir)