BBL Championship
Manchester Giants 75-83 London Lions (27-18, 41-46, 60-66)

London Lions closed out the year still top of the BBL Championship following an away victory over Manchester Giants.

The win puts the Lions at 12-2 heading into 2019 with the Giants missing out on the chance to close the gap on those above them.

It was a fairly even start to the game as both teams traded baskets, Willie Clayton hitting 6 of the Giants’ first 8 points whilst Justin Robinson and Ladarius Tabb sandwiched a Kervin Bristol score to make it 8-8 after 4 minutes. Back to back scores from the League’s MVP had the Lions ahead by 4. Then at 14-14 the home side went on an 8-0 run in which the Lions missed 4 successive shots and committed two turnovers whilst also being called for 4 fouls, one of them an unsportsmanlike on Lamar Roberts.

Callum Jones and Granic did the damage for the Giants as they led 27-18 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Jordan Spencer hit a triple to start the second quarter before Andre Lockhart and the returning Joe Ikhinmwin dragged the deficit to a single point at 32-31with 6 minutes left of the half to go. With Coach Macaulay rotating his bench, former Giant Jerelle Okoro hit a drive and a a pair of free throws  before Lockhart hit another triple to take the lead for good at 37-40 with three minutes remaining. Roberts scored off an offensive rebound as the Lions took a 41-46 lead into the locker room at the half having doubled their hosts score in the quarter, 14-28.

With Clayton causing havoc inside on his way to 29 points, Coach Macaulay rotated guys on him, Roberts in particular being able to match his strength, but crucially the Lions’ perimeter defence was choking and held their hosts to just 2 0f 21 from behind the arc and that would be the pivotal area.

At 60-66 going into the final quarter, Okoro dunked and Lockhart hit another pair from long range as the Lions had enough to just keep Giants at bay.

Key stat – London’s depth proved fruitful with 36 points coming off the bench compared to just four from the Giants as their starters carried a heavy load.

Robinson and Andre Lockhart together combined for 35 of London’s points with key performances, whilst Clayton’s monster game with 29 points, 23 rebounds would grab the headlines, it was holding a combination of Bankevics, James Jones and Butler to just 4 points between them that delivered the victory.

We caught up with Coach Macaulay after the last Lions’ game of 2018 and he had this to say, “I thought the Giants battled hard and have improved this season, we are happy for every point we get. It has been a great year from the mid point of last season through to the start of this, the guys are committed totally to what we are doing and we have a mindset in the team to face whatever challenges come so hopefully we will just carry on in the same vein and look forward to joining our fans at the first game of 2019 at home on the 4th. I wish everyone a fantastic New Year.”

(Pic; Peel vs Clayton Courtesey Graham Hodges, Report; Duncan Hooper)

Lions scorers – Robinson 18, Lockhart 17, Spencer 10, Tabb 8, Okoro 7, Bristol 6, Peel 5, Guede 5, Roberts 4, Ikhinmwin 3, Ekperuoh 0.

Giants Scorers; Clayton 29, Jones 17, Granic 16

Box score.