London Overcome Poor Start to Claim Tough Comeback Road Win Against Manchester, 76-87. Sam Dekker’s 20-Point, 5-Rebound and 4-Steal Performance Helps Lions Extend Lead at the Top of the Regular Season Table
In a game that can be described as one of the grittiest grind-out wins of the domestic season, the London Lions showed poise and determination to overcome a poor start and leave Manchester with a 76-87 win.
The capital city heroes were given a fright in the initial period finding themselves down 5-0 after the first two minutes and twenty-two seconds. Although London continued to move the ball pretty well to get good open shots, they failed to knock down open jumpers. Soon after Mo Soluade missed a long-range shot Lions found themselves 8-0 down in front of Manchester’s packed-out home crowd.
Sleepy defence and Sam Dekker’s High-IQ offensive mindset gave the forward the wherewithal to sneak along the baseline behind Tajh Green to lay in London’s first bucket from the low post. Unfortunately, former London Lion Dirk Williams put an initial stop to a comeback, putting the Giants up 10-2 after a slick behind-the-back crossover mid-range jumper over Dekker.
Refusing to be outdone and needing to put points on the board, Team GB standout Josh Sharma hit Manchester’s Legend Robertin with a slick head fake and two-hand flush to cut the lead down to 6 points (10-4). Yet again, Vince Tunde Macaulay’s men stopped the comeback, going on an all-out 7-2 run to claim a 17-6 lead. During this time and shortly after, the Giants wound up in foul trouble that hampered them throughout the rest of the game.
Miye Oni’s double connects from the charity stripe cut the lead down to nine points, but once again, the Giants kept the Lions at bay after going on yet another scoring run that ballooned the Manchester advantage to 26-8. After enduring two scoring runs, the Lions dug deep and started their almighty fightback.
Lion-hearted captain Aaron Best hit a fast break coast-to-coast transition trey ball to cut the lead to 16 points (29-13). Dekker followed up Best’s brace when the skipper found the 6’8” forward, sealing off Manchester’s 5’10” point guard Ramon Fletcher in the low post. With the mouse clearly in the house, Dekker backed down Fletcher and spun the guard’s reach to lay the rock in (29-15).
Ever the competitor, the former Newcastle Eagle guard refused to take Dekker’s post move lightly and immediately returned fire with a long-range 2-pointer to push the lead back up to 16 (31-15). Dekker closed the period by putting local boy Callum Jones on an AND-1 poster dunk the Manchester Giants veteran may not forget for a while.
The second quarter opened with Dirk Williams and the Lions trading mid-range shots and triples. At the 07:04 mark, Josh Ward-Hibbert’s 3-point cut the lead to ten points and sparked an 8-0 run, which put the Lions in sight of taking over (38-33). However, missed shots and turnovers allowed the Giants to put the lead back to ten points (43-33).
A 5-0 London surge brought the Lions closer (43-38), but errant calls on the Lions and missed opportunities frustratingly allowed the Giants to yet again push the lead out to eleven points. Best and Vojtech Hruban helped to simmer some of these frustrations when they made back-to-back buckets to close off the period and cut the advantage down to seven points.
Although London went into the half seven points down, the quarter saw a better overall team performance from the Lions recording 24 points and only conceding 18. The third period saw Ryan Schmidt’s men tighten their defence, only allowing the Giants to record 12 points. The Lions turned their defence into offence, recording another 24 points with three blocks and one steal.
Dekker cut the lead to three points at the 06:46 mark and tied the game up with a pair of charity stripe connects (53-53). Back-to-Back buckets from Sharma (the latter of which was an alley-oop off a Miye Oni dime) allowed the Lions to get out ahead for the first time and extend the advantage to four points. Several more errant calls allowed the Lions' advantage to be short-lived (59-59). Big man Tajh Green helped the Giants take another lead before Sharma’s layup once again tied the game (61-61) and sparked a 7-0 surge to end the quarter to give London a 61-66 lead.
Still, on a hot streak, the Lions jumped into the fourth quarter with all guns blazing, going on an 8-3 run (64-74). With a packed house of Mancunians behind them, the Giants continued to edge their way back into the game. Manchester trailed by seven points after Williams’ triple to bring the score to 71-78. Poor shooting from Manchester hampered their comeback and allowed Lion to keep their Northern opponents at bay. Tomislav Zubcic triple put the nail in the coffin before Oni’s late lay-up.