London Lions Advance to the 2023-22 British Basketball League Championship Playoff Final!
Josh Sharma Posts 16 Points, 6 Rebounds and 3 Blocks to Help the Lions Cruise to 81-102 Away Victory over Cheshire. Bench Mob Combine for 50 Points.
24 hours after their hard-fought game-one victory, the London Lions put together a stellar collective performance to advance to the 2022-23 British Basketball League Championship Playoff Final.
The clash got off to a back-and-forth start, with the semi-final opponents trading the lead six times within the first four minutes of the game (9-8). However, Aaron Best’s brace from the free throw line ignited a 10-0 surge, allowing the Londoners to gain a nine-point advantage (9-18). As the quarter drew to a close, the Lions kept the Phoenix at bay with a 5-8 run that gave the Londoners a 10-point lead going into the second period (16-26).
Over the past season, the Lions developed a fierce defensive reputation. This collective lockdown defence once again stagnated Cheshire’s offence to just 16 points off the back of three blocks, two steals, five turnovers and 14 defensive rebounds.
Marcus Evans’s second-quarter opening brace from the charity stripe cut the advantage to nine points (17-26). Unfortunately for their home fans, this was the closest the score got during the period. Josh Ward-Hibbert hit a 3-pointer to open the Lions’ account and sparked a 6-16 run (23-45) that cancelled any hope of a comeback from Cheshire.
An alley-oop dunk from Sharma and a triple from Ward-Hibbert allowed the Lions to push the lead to 25 and 28 points, respectively. Cheshire’s Maceo Jack, who finished the game with 32 points, attempted to stop the bleeding with a layup, only for Amorie Archibald to give up a foul with 24 seconds left on the clock. The Phoenix were able to pick up two points; shortly after, Nelson put away his two opportunities from the line to close out the quarter (32-58).
Although London opened the third with a flurry of buckets from open play and at the line (32-64), their defence struggled to contain Cheshire’s reinvigorated offence. The northwestern outfit cut the lead from 32 points to 21 several times but couldn’t get any closer. Archibald cut the deficit to 21 points with 01:08 left on the clock, but a Miye Oni triple once again kept the Phoenix at bay (57-81).
The fourth quarter saw the home team shave the advantage down to 15 points by 05:53 of the period (73-88), but that was the closest they got to wrestling back the lead. London closed the quarter on an 8-14 run to punch their ticket to the 2022-23 British Basketball League Championship Playoff Final.
Player of the game, Josh Sharma, torched Cheshire’s interior defence connecting on 77% of his shot attempts in the paint. The big man’s shot efficiency allowed him to pocket 16 points which he complimented with six rebounds. As predicted, Sharma’s rim protection would play a huge factor in this series, as he walked away with three blocks to help suppress Cheshire’s offence.
Captain Aaron Best led the starters with 16 points, seven rebounds and one assist. The combo guard gained his points haul, connecting on all three of his shots from inside the arc and 70% of his shots from the free throw line.
Jordan Taylor had an efficient shooting game across the board, connecting on 71% from the field, 80% from inside the arc, 50% from 3-point range and 100% (3/3) from the free throw line. This excellent shooting display allowed Taylor to earn 14 points, which he complimented with five assists and two rebounds.
Miye Oni hit 62% of his shots from the field, including three shots from long-range en route to 13 points. The 2-way specialist also dished out two assists, pulled down one rebound and grabbed a steal.
The Lions’ bench mob combined for 50 points. Josh Ward-Hibbert contributed 14 points, shooting 60% from the field, 66% from 3-point range and 100% (6/6) from the free-throw line. Pick-and-roll specialist Luke Nelson pocketed 11 points, five assists, two rebounds, and one steal off the bench. 2-Way guard Mo Soluade hit two 3-pointers en route to 6 points. He also recorded five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.