London Blast Their Way into Playoff Final Four, Beating Newcastle 99-86 (207-164), Despite Game Being Marred by A Bevvy Of Arrant Technical Foul Calls.
Player of the Game, Jordan Taylor Records 18 Points and 3 Assists in Sunny South London.
Following their dominating game one victory, the London Lions completed their mission to qualify for the British Basketball League semi-finals with a hard-fought 99-86 win over Newcastle. However, the game, billed as the South London showdown, was marred by at least 40 foul calls and seven errant technicals on both teams.
Proceedings got off to a great start, with the Lions suffocating the Eagles' first possession into a shot clock violation. Twelve seconds later, Aaron Best opened the Lions’ South London account with a corner triple following a half-court set that led Tarik Phillip to pass to the open Toronto native to knock down the jumper.
Jordan ‘JT’ Taylor followed Best’s brace with a straight-line drive to the bucket, blowing by David Cohn’s lacklustre defence (5-0). However, the Eagles eventually cut the lead to one point off the back of two back-to-back buckets (5-4).
Shortly after Newcastle put their fifth point on the board (7-5), the Lions went on an 8-0 tear to earn themselves a ten-point lead (15-5). During the run, the officials called four fouls within 44 seconds, including an offensive foul on Defoe that perplexed several Lions fans in attendance.
Offensive stagnation caused by London’s famed defensive identity forced the Geordies into an open-play scoring drought that the Lions took full advantage of. This run, which was highlighted by Josh Sharma's alley-oop dunk, saw Ryan Schmidt’s side stretch the margin out to 15 points (25-10).
Vojtěch Hruban knocked down a triple to push the advantage to 16 points, following two more Newcastle charity stripe opportunities (28-12) due to a suspicious foul call on Luke Nelson.
Several unnecessary and suspicious foul calls on both teams resulted in a 5-7 run in favour of the Eagles. These decisions, which continued to confuse many in the arena, closed the period but allowed the Lions to take a 14-point lead into the second quarter (33-19).
Technically speaking, the second quarter was the worst ten-minute duration for the Lions. Even though the Eagles were slapped with one coach's tech, the Londoners were awarded two technical fouls, one of which was given out to Zubčić whilst he was engaged in an impassionate conversation with Phillip following a foul call on the guard.
Although by this time, the Eagles had cut the deficit to eight points (44-36), the technical foul shots and personal foul shots allowed the Northeasterners to close the gap to five points (44-39). Unfortunately for the Lions, an errant foul call on Miye Oni and a subsequent technical resulted in three more Newcastle opportunities from the charity stripe (44-42).
However, the Lions were able to extend the lead back out to six points (48-42) following free throw makes from Zubčić and some intense lockdown on-ball defence from Tarik ‘Reek’ Phillip. Phillip cleanly muscled the ball out of Denzel Ubiaro’s grip and drove uncontested to the basket, to the chagrin of Eagles playcaller Marc Steutel. Steutel was then awarded a coach’s technical due to his protest.
The third quarter was a slugfest that saw the Lions awarded two technicals, score 24 points, and give up 25 points. The Lions got things rolling, opening up the period with an 8-2 run that gave them an 11-point lead (59-48). Newcastle chipped the deficit down to seven points (63-56) by the time the Lions were give the first of their two technicals.
London’s advantage stood at a slender four points (72-68) by the time they were given their second technical following a personal foul call on Mo Soluade. Once the Eagles completed the faux pas three-point-play, the Lions were ahead by just one point (72-71).
However, a well-worked play allowed Josh Ward-Hibbert to connect from 3-point range to push the lead back to four points and give London some much-needed breathing room to end the quarter (75-71).
A triple from talisman Sam Dekker to open the fourth period gave the Lions a seven-point advantage, but the Eagles returned fire to three back-to-back-back buckets to bring the lead back down to one point (78-77). Luckily this was the closest the Geordies got to wrestling the game in their favour.
The Lions were once again slapped with a technical foul, this time attributed to their entire bench, but their seven-point cushion allowed them to absorb the free throw shot and later Defoe’s mid-range shot (86-82). An 11-2 run allowed the Lions to extend their lead to 13 points (97-84) with just over one minute left on the clock.
Sharma sealed the 99-86 victory with a crowd-pleasing alley-oop via a slick dime from Dekker.
Jordan ‘JT’ Taylor was lights out from the field, connecting on all seven of his shot attempts en route to 18 points. The skilled point guard complimented points haul and shooting efficiency with three assists and one rebound.
Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić gave the Eagles the business dropping 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out an assist. The Forward shot 71% from the floor, 66% from 3-point range and 75% from the charity stripe.
As predicted, Josh Sharma led the bench with 18 points, completing a gaudy 90% of his shots from the floor. The GB big man mixed his points production with four points, five rebounds, and one assist.
Vojtěch Hruban supported his comrades with a 16-point, two-rebound, two-assist and one-steal display, shooting 55% from the field, 75% from beyond the arc, and 100% (3/3) from the free throw line.