London Lions Power Through Tough 4th Quarter to Clinch BBL Championship Playoff Title.
Jordan Taylor Crowned Finals MVP After 15-Point, 7-Assist, 5-Rebound and 2-Steal Performance to Help the Lions Win 88-80 Against the Riders
The London Lions avenged their heartbreaking 2022 defeat by beating the Riders 88-80 to claim the capital’s first-ever playoff final crown.
Proceedings got off to an encouraging start, with the Lions taking an 11-7 lead in the game through defensive ingenuity from Miye Oni, leading to a steal and a fast break dime to Vojtech Hruban. However, the Rider quickly turned things around, taking an 11-12 lead following an and-1 play from Carrington Love and a post bucket from Darien Nelson-Henry.
Undeterred, the Lions came racing back, ending the quarter on a furious 9-2 run highlighted by back-to-back triples from Tarik Phillips in the last minute of the period (22-14).
The Leicestershire-based club opened the second period on a 0-5 run cutting the Lions’ advantage to a slender three points, but the Londoners returned five with their own 4-0 surge resetting the lead to seven points. By the 06:31 mark, the margin had ballooned to 11 points (34-23) and 14 points (38-24) two minutes later.
Three back-to-back-to-back errant foul calls on the Lions sent the Riders to the charity stripe, which Leicester took full advantage of, which allowed the Midland-based outfit to shave the deficit down to eight points (38-30).
The lead returned to 12 points twice towards the end of the period (42-30 and 44-32); however, Darien Nelson-Henry and Kimbal Mackenzie combined for a 0-4 run in the last 18 seconds, momentarily shifting the momentum in favour of the Riders (44-36).
The beginning of the third saw the Londoners knock down a 3-pointer after each Riders’ bucket stretching the advantage to 11 points (50-39). Although Leicester fought back, London’s offence shot holes in their defence, allowing the Lions to eventually move ahead by 16 points (69-53) with less than two minutes left in the quarter.
Unfortunately, London failed to increase their advantage in the dying moments of the period turning the ball over and missing several well-orchestrated opportunities. This allowed Mackenzie to close the quarter with a layup and cut the margin to 14 points (69-55).
The fourth period was an absolute back-and-forth affair that saw the Riders cut the difference to single points on several occasions. During an exciting 90-second period, the teams exchanged four 3-pointers (75-67), leaving the deficit at just eight points.
London kept the Riders at bay, but their levees broke momentarily as the Riders went on a 3-9 run that shaved the lead down to five points, the closest the game had been. However, Josh Ward-Hibbert and Best hit a vital layup and free throw shot in the last 22 seconds to help the Lions stay on top and clinch the 2022-23 Championship Playoff final crown.
Jordan Taylor scored 15 points on 55/66/75 shooting splits en route to his Finals MVP title. The lead guard mixed his points production with five rebounds, seven assists and two steals
Miya Oni recorded a 14-point and ten-rebound double-double and helped to facilitate the Lions' offence by dishing out five assists and lockdown the Riders with a game-high four steals.
Captain Aaron Best hit two triples and all seven of his free throw attempts to earn 15 points to go with four rebounds. Tarik Phillip came off the bench to record his best BBL performance since returning from injury, with 12 points, six rebounds and one assist.
Josh Sharma led the game with four blocks to go with five rebounds and five points. Josh Ward-Hibbert helped his comrades with four points, four rebounds, and one block.