London Lions Defeat Cheshire Phoenix 74-65 to Move on to the BBL Cup Semi-finals. New Signing Miye Oni Comes Up Big with 5 Huge Blocks and 2 Steals in his Domestic Debut.
In their return to domestic action, three days after becoming the first British team to win an away game in the 7Days EuroCup (F/K/A the ULEP Cup), the London Lions defeated the Cheshire Phoenix, 74-65 to advance to the BBL Cup semi-finals.
Luke Nelson led all starters with 12 points during an efficient shooting night, knocking down 80% of his shots from the field, including 2 of his 3 shots from the 3-point line. The experienced GB international guard supported his teammates with 4 assists and led the squad with 15 points in the plus-minus column.
In his first taste of domestic action, Miye Oni's high IQ defence proved vital, leading the game with 5 huge blocks whilst grabbing 2 steals. The 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year also contributed 4 assists and 8points, along with two 3-pointers.
The first quarter started a little sluggish, with the Lions going down 0-5 after just 1 minute of play, which included a tough fadeaway shot by former London Lions’ forward Will Neighbour. However, home debutant Miye Oni broke the Lions’ duck with a much-needed triple via Josh Ward-Hibbert’s corner dime.
The 2019 NBA Draft picks’ 3-pointer opened the floodgates for the hometown favourites as they went on their own run, contributing to an 11-5 lead. Nelson’s back-to-back 3-pointers highlighted this period. The Lions scored 10 points in the last 5 minutes to end the quarter, with the help of Tomislav “Zuba” Zubcic’s 3-pointer and new GB international player Josh Sharma’s dunk in Tahjai Teague’s face.
The Lions headed into the second quarter with a 25-14 lead; however, the northwest England-based squad fought back, claiming the period 20-17, supported by an early 3-pointer by Lloyd Daniels, 5 points from Larry Austin Jr, 3 points from Tahjai Teague and 7 points from Maceo Jack.
Although Cheshire outscored the Lions in the second quarter, London went into the halftime break with an 8-point lead. Lions Nation witnessed this lead explode in the third quarter.
Cheshire opened up the third quarter on a 0-6 run, but that was blown out of the water by Lion’s incredible 16-2 run. Ryan Schmidt’s men reverted to their famed defensive identity, grabbing 5 of their 9 total steals during the period with the help of “Zuba,” Oni, and Aaron Best.
Excellent offensive displays spotlighted their scoring from Aaron Best, Vojtech Hruban, and Kosta Koufos, as well as Luke Nelson’s fast-break transition dunk off Miye Oni’s steal.
The fourth quarter was a slight defensive struggle for the hometown squad, conceding 18 points. But the Lions ultimately completed the mission with the help of three back-to-back 3-pointers from Mo Soluade and Oni.
Koufos contributed 10 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, whilst Tomislav “Zuba” Zubcic supported his comrades with 9 points, shooting 60% from the field, including 50% from long range. In his first start of the season, Josh Ward-Hibbert attacked the defensive boards to the tune of 6 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.
Vojtech Hruban led the bench squad with 12 points on a highly effective 3 of 5 shots, contributing to the Lions’ season-long defensive identity with 2 steals. Canadian international and Captain for the night, Aaron Best, led the team with 3 steals, distributed 4 assists and claimed 4 rebounds of his own to go with his 7-point total.
The Lions will now play either the Bristol Flyers or Manchester Giants in the next round of the BBL Cup.