Isaiah Reese poured in 23 points as Lions ended Leicester Riders’ unbeaten start to the BBL Championship season with a 79-77 victory at the Copper Box, on Sunday.
The American guard scored Lions’ final nine points of the game to end Riders’ 12 game winning streak in the league, adding seven rebounds and three assists as London avenged last week’s loss against the same opposition.
Josh Ward-Hibbert hit a season-high 15 points, missing a double-double by a single rebound, while Lorenzo Cugini came off the bench to add 11 points in just 17 minutes. Dirk Williams followed up his big night in Lions’ European victory against Bakken Bears with ten points. Patrick Whelan led Riders with 20 points and six boards but the usually reliable Riders’ bench was limited to just seven points.
Williams opened the scoring with a lay-up , but although Riders opened a 13-8 lead midway through the first period, Ward-Hibbert hit five straight points to tie the score. A three-point play from Cugini put Lions back into the lead before Kylor Kelley’s turnaround jump shot gave the hosts a 22-21 advantage at the first break.
Whelan and Cugini exchanged baskets to open the second period but a 7-0 run put Riders in charge. A pair of Kelley free-throws broke the run and Washburn sunk a triple. But an 8-0 tear saw the visitors open a double-digit lead before four Reese free-throws and a score from captain Justin Robinson reduced the deficit to 48-43 going into the locker room at half-time.
Debutant Ryan Martin opened what proved to be a strong third period for Lions, with Reese hitting a triple and a pair of Ward-Hibbert baskets tying the score at 52 with three minutes gone.
Reese scored again from downtown to put Lions ahead and Cugini also hit a long-range effort before converting a pair at the foul line. Martin’s floater made it an eight-point game going into the final minute of the third period before five straight Greg Crandall points cut Lions’ lead to 65-62 heading into the final quarter.
Williams’ trademark trey opened a low-scoring fourth quarter before Kelley hit a jumper to put Lions up by eight, and London were still ahead by five points heading into the final three minutes. Zach Jackson’s shot cut that lead to three with 2:07 on the clock but Reese’s dagger-three made a six point game with 16 seconds remaining before he wrapped up the win at the foul line.