London Lions’ Dominant First Half Helps to Keep Cheshire Phoenix at Bay to Claim 74-89 Victory. Lions' Bench Squad Combine for 50 Points, 21 Rebounds and 14 Assists.
The London Lions solidified their spot at the top of the league, beating Cheshire Phoenix 74-89, holding the northwest England-based team to just 28 points during their dominant first-half display.
Starter Kosta Koufos’ turned in an excellent 10-point, 11-rebound, double-double performance in little over 16 minutes, and Sam Dekker recorded 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
The Lions’ bench squad recorded a combined 50 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists. Captain Ovie Soko helped the second unit with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal whilst shooting 83% in the painted area. Vojtech Hruban came off the bench and contributed 11 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal whilst connecting on all three of his long-range shots from beyond the arc.
The bench squad received an additional boost from Josh Sharma, who completed 83% of his shots (in the paint) to the tune of 10 points, which included an alley-oop flush via a slick dime from Hruban in the 4th quarter. The GB international also recorded 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block.
2-way guard Morayo Soluade ended the game with an index number of 13 and 19 in the plus/minus column resulting from a 7-point, 5-assist, 3-rebound, 1-steal and 1-block performance. Bench contributions were rounded out by Kareem Queeley, who picked up 6 points to go with a steal and a rebound, and Josh Ward-Hibbert, who poured in 4 points, 2 rebounds and grabbed 1 steal.
After an initial back-and-forth 8-8 affair to start the quarter, the Lions' defensive identity finally kicked into gear and stagnated the Cheshire offence during the first quarter. Back-to-back buckets from Ovie Soko, back-to-back dunks from Koufos and triples from Dekker and Hruban helped galvanise the Lions' offence. These plays were made possible due to the Lions’ ball-sharing offence, which produced 7 assists.
By the end of the first period, the Lions had shot an efficient 75% from the field, including 2 of 3 shots from long-range. However, Cheshire’s offence could only connect on 35% of their shots.
The Lions' defence continued to suffocate Cheshire’s advances throughout the second quarter. During an 8-2, towards the end of the period, the Londoners caused the northerners to miss 9 back-to-back shots before Marcus Evans was able to break the cold streak with 21 seconds left on the clock.
Cheshire couldn’t find ways to break or weave through the Lions' inside presence and, as a result, were forced to take bad shots from outside the arc or from mid-range.
By halftime, the Lions were dominating in several different areas, including 2-point percentage shooting (81% vs 36%), 3-point percentage shooting (42% vs 28%), total rebounds (21 vs 11) and bench production (21 points vs 6 points).
London opened their third-quarter account with an Aaron Best alley-oop dunk via a slick Luke Nelson dime. The Lion-hearted Canadian was able to cut behind Cheshire’s sleepy defence as a result of a brick wall screen set by Josh Sharma.
Although the third period produced Cheshire’s best offensive numbers, their defence struggled to contain London. The Lions scored 26 points with the help of Koufos, Best, Dekker, Soko, Sharma, Kareem Queeley and Hruban. By the end of the third, the Lions had shot 63% from the field, including 40% from deep, grabbed 33 rebounds and made each other better to the tune of 18 assists.
The fourth quarter saw Cheshire twice close the Lions’ lead down to 13, but that was as close as they could get as the Lions kept their northern rivals at bay. Back-to-back dunks from Dekker, towards the end of the period, dissipated the momentum that Cheshire was building and confined Phoenix to their either defeat of the regular season.