London Use 4th Quarter Burst to Claim 82-74 Victory Over the Cheshire Phoenix, After First-Half Scare.
Player of the Game, Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić Posts in 15 Points and Four Rebounds in a Hard-Fought Game One Win Over the Northwest England Side.
After a less-than-stellar first quarter, the London Lions dug deep to claim their 82-74 game-one victory over the Cheshire Phoenix. The Lions held the Phoenix, the second-best 3-point shooting team in the BBL, to an appalling 17% from long-range.
Phoenix gave the Londoners (both team and fans alike) a scare in the first quarter keeping the 2023 BBL Cup champs at arm’s length throughout most of the period. Tarik ‘Reek’ Phillip’s triple at 08:28, which gave the Lions a 5-4 lead, was the only time London held a score advantage during the period.
Cheshire wrestled the lead back several seconds later (5-6) and kept it whilst stagnating the London offence. A slight shift in momentum came towards the end of the period when GB star Luke Nelson went on a solo four-point run to cut the lead to just five points (19-24).
The second period opened to an 8-2 flurry of buckets from the Londoners, highlighted by Mo Soluade’s back-to-back 3-pointers, which tied the game (27-27) and forced Ben Thomas to call a timeout. However, his peep talk did little to help his troops as Josh Sharma hit Cheshire’s wavering defence with a hookshot to give the Lions a 29-27 lead.
Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić increased the lead to four points forcing the Cheshire head coach into another timeout. However, unlike their first timeout, this peep talk inspired Cheshire to go on a 4-12 run to close out the quarter and give themselves a 39-43 advantage going into the halftime break.
Three back-to-back-to-back triples from the Lions followed Cheshire’s opening 0-3 run to wrestle the lead back in London’s favour (48-46). The semi-finalists continued to exchange buckets for the next five minutes, with neither team owning more than a three-point lead.
However, this changed with 01:15 left on the clock, with London going on a 6-0 run from the free throw line and open play to establish a six-point advantage at the close of the quarter (67-61).
This momentum-shifting run seeped over to the start of the fourth period as London opened the quarter on a 5-0 burst to give themselves an 11-point lead (72-61). Cheshire fought back gallantly, cutting the margin to five points but ultimately failed to get any closer to the surging Lions (82-74).
Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić led his comrades with 15 points, which he complimented with four rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. The high-IQ shooter had an efficient afternoon connecting on all four of his shots within the arc, his lone free throw shot, and 40% from long-range.
Jordan Taylor led the team with eight assists, five rebounds, and five points. Josh Ward-Hibbert led the bench mob’s 38-point haul with 13 of his own and six rebounds. The skilled wing shot 71% from the floor and connected on both free-throw shots.
2-Way specialist Mo Soluade followed suit with ten points, one rebound and three rebounds, to go with one rebound, three assists, and one steal. Josh Sharma led the team with nine rebounds to go with two assists and four points.