Turnover Turmoil Condemns the Lions to 2nd Straight BBL Defeat.
Sam Dekker Scored 28 Points & Grabbed 9 Rebounds on his Return to Domestic Action.
Without captain Ovie Soko, the London Lions travelled to Bristol’s SGS College Arena and engaged in an action-packed, top-of-the-table clash, ultimately losing 75-71. Sam Dekker returned to domestic action after missing the previous five games through injury, scoring 28 points, blocking 2 shots and grabbing 9 rebounds.
Tomislav “Zuba” Zubcic followed with an 11-point effort, shooting an efficient 66% from the field whilst blocking 2 shots, grabbing 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Seasoned Great Britain international Luke Nelson contributed 10 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
Head coach Ryan Schmidt began the game with the five-person tandem of Aaron Best and Luke Nelson in the guard spots, Dekker and Zubcic in the forward positions and Kosta Koufos at the center spot.
“Zuba” got the first of the four regular-season meetings off to a bang with a block on Vincent King’s 3-point attempt, which he quickly collected and laid off to Nelson, who dimed Sam Dekker with a neat pocket pass for his first 2 points of the game. Dekker followed this up with a 3-point shot via a well-organised dribble hand-off, pick-and-pop play that put our hometown heroes up 0-5.
The Flyers responded with a blistering 13-4 run via back-to-back triples from Mike Miller and Tevin Olison, which was halted by Dekker’s 2-point shot. Undeterred, the Bristolians went on another scoring run, extending their lead to 25-11, before Dekker and then “Zuba” closed the gap.
Although both teams traded buckets, the Flyers kept our Londoners at bay, refusing to allow the Lions to close the gap to less than 10-points until the 4:47 mark of the second period, when the Lions cut the lead to 8 points. The Lions cut the lead to 5 points twice but were still kept at bay by Brandon Mahan and Flyers’ captain Mike Miller.
The Lions' impressive 20-point offensive display in the second quarter was upended by the 5 turnovers the team conceded. These included unforced and costly turnovers by Josh Ward-Hibbert, Nelson and Koufos in the last 1:16 of the period that dampened the Lions' efforts to draw closer to the Flyers.
The third quarter saw the Lions continue to be plagued by turnovers as they fought back into the game. Ironically, the Lions put on their best defensive display during the period, conceding just 12 points, as opposed to 20 points in the first and 15 points in the second.
This resulted from forcing Bristol into shot clock violations, closing out faster on jump shots and brilliantly playing the passing lanes as Vojtech Hruban and Aaron Best took advantage of poor passes. Hruban helped cut the Flyers’ lead down to 5 points before the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started poorly for our hometown heroes during a 3-minute stretch in which they conceded 6 points and 3 turnovers, helping Bristol extend their lead to an 11-point advantage. The Lions had to wait until the 4:56 mark of the quarter to break the Flyers, seemingly unassailable 10-point lead. To break the seal, Lions’ talisman, Dekker, had to crash boards for 2 hard-fought second-chance points.
Aaron Best cut the Flyers' lead to 4 points, hitting both his crunch-time free throws and then knocking down a much-needed 3-pointer with 2:19 left on the clock. These clutch plays brought the score to 66-62 before Mike Miller extended the Flyers’ lead, once again, with a 3-point dagger. The Flyers’ captain finished the game with 15 points, shooting 60% from long range.
Kareem Queeley returned fire less than 10 seconds later, knocking down a triple and cutting their lead to 4 points. Malcolm Delpeche helped keep the Lions at bay, sinking two crunch-time free-throw shots.
However, Dekker helped keep hope alive for the Londoners twice in the last minute of the period. First, hitting a go-ahead 3-point shot with 0:52 on the clock and then with just 0:02 left. Unfortunately, these efforts were cancelled by crunch-time free-throw shots by Jelani Watson-Gayle and Vincent King, who finished the game with 14 and 17 points, respectively.
Be sure to tune into London Lions’ next game on Friday, 25th November, against Cheshire Phoenix, where our hometown heroes plan to return to winning form.