Newcastle Eagles
London Lions

London Lions Cruise to 78-108 Victory Over Newcastle in Game 1.

Josh Sharma Leads the Bench Mob with 18 Points and 6 Rebounds to Condemn the Eagles to a 30-Point Deficit in Opening Game of the Aggregate Series.

London returned to the Vertu Motors Arena almost a month after putting 100 points past Newcastle to condemn the North-East outfit to another 100+ points loss—this time in the opening game of the British Basketball League playoffs.

A back-and-forth in the early going saw the Eagles take a 5-4 lead shortly after Miye Oni opened the game’s account. That was the last time the Geordie faithful saw their team lead the game as Miye Oni’s triple (5-7) ignited a 4-11 run that put London ahead by six points (9-15). 

Newcastle cut the margin to three points twice before London spent the last four minutes dismantling the Eagles' defence, going on an almighty 2-13 run (16-31). Vojtech Hruban opened the second period with a triple which was part of a 5-9 charge that eventually gave the Lions a 19-point advantage (21-40).  

An errant technical foul call on Tariq Phillip, free throws from Javion Hamlet and a post move from Newcastle mainstay Darius Defoe allowed the Eagles to cut the deficit to 14 points. However, their defence continued to break under the might of London’s offence, as the Lions stretched the lead to 20 points less than 40 seconds after Defoe’s brace (26-46).

The Geordies attempted to shift the momentum in their favour shortly after skipper Aaron Best extended the lead to 21 points (34-55) with a 5-0 run to close out the quarter (39-55). Although Oni opened the third period with a layup (39-57), the shift “seemingly” migrated over to the third quarter after former GB national team play Ben Mockford cut the lead to 15 points (42-57) with a triple. 

However, said shift was short-lived as the Lions returned fire with a 4-10 charge that pushed the advantage to 21 points (46-67). London’s lead fluctuated between 19 and 23 points for the rest of the quarter, with Team GB teammates Josh Sharma (five points) and Luke Nelson (six points) profiting the most from the run (59-82). 

As the saying goes, “basketball is a game of runs.” However, the fourth quarter was a game of Lions’ runs as the southerners blitzed the northeasterners with several poorly contested back-to-back-to-back buckets. One of the most damning was the final charge (1-9) that saw the Lions finish the 78-108 victors, taking a 30-point lead into game two. 

As initially speculated, the Lions’ bench mob, Josh Sharma and Vojtech Hruban’s shooting ability would play a massive part in the series, let alone game one. 

Ryan Schmidt’s bench rotation combined for 48 points, (technically) 5.75 more points than they averaged against the Geordies during the regular season. Rising Team GB star Josh Sharma put 18 points past the National team head coach, Marc Steutel’s side, to lead the bench mob in scoring. 

The 7’0” center had an extremely efficient and productive evening on both sides of the ball, connecting on 88% of his attempts whilst blocking two shots and grabbing a steal. Sharma complimented his points production with six rebounds, four of which were offensive boards, contributing to London’s 11 second-chance points. 

Vojtech Hruban pocketed 12 points off the bench, shooting an efficient 55% from the floor, including 50% from long-range. The wing mixed his points production with three rebounds and three assists whilst helping on the defensive end with one block and one steal.

Four of the Lions' five starters recorded double-figure points in the competitive, sometimes chippy, one-sided victory. Miye Oni just missed out on a double-double with 14 points and eight rebounds. The 2-way specialist also grabbed two steals whilst dishing out four assists and shooting five of nine (55%) from the field.  

Aaron Best shot 60% from the floor en route to 14 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Jordan Taylor contributed 13 points, five assists, two rebounds, and two steals to help the Lions dominate the Eagles. 

Sharpshooter Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić drained both of his 3-point and free throw attempts to help him collect 10 points whilst grabbing three rebounds. Tarik Phillip had a perfect night of shooting, connecting on all three of his shots en route to nine points, which he complimented with four rebounds and four assists.

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