London Lions Close Out Regular Season’s Home Games with an Emphatic 34-Point, 96-62 Victory Over the Patriots.
Player of the Game, Vojtech Hruban, Contributes 25 Points to Help Damage Plymouth City’s Slim Playoff Hopes
With London’s top spot in the playoffs already cliched, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Lions would take their foot off the gas in the last home game of the regular season.
Unfortunately for Plymouth, that’s not Head Coach Ryan Schmidt’s philosophy nor style. The league champs went full steam ahead and double-downed on their approach, scorching the Devon-based outfit, 96-62, whose slim playoff hopes were severely damaged by the loss.
For Lions fans, Plymouth’s playoff implications were little more than an afterthought as anticipation levels had reached a fever pitch for the return and Lions’ debut of Tarik Phillips.
On Monday, 3rd September 2022, it was announced that point guard Tarik Phillips had undergone surgery after sustaining a knee injury and would be sidelined indefinitely. However, to the fan's surprise, several hours before tipoff, the club released the news stating that the Team GB playmaker would debut in the Lions’ jersey against the Patriots.
The game started slow for the Lions, conceding a 0-4 run in the early going. However, just over one minute later, London finally generated some points on the board via a set play that resulted in a corner triple from Vojtech Hruban (3-4). The play, which saw skipper Aaron Best pick up his first assist of the evening, stopped a cycle of missed shots and turnovers from the Lions.
Soon after Nigerian/Canadian Otas Iyekekpolor extended the Devonshire advantage (3-6), the teams exchanged leads six times. At the 02:18 mark, Hruban’s brace sparked a 7-2 run to close out the first period allowing London to put some much-needed distance between them and Plymouth (21-16).
This sequence of plays contained several highlights, none more significant than the long-awaited debut of Tarik Phillips. Just over a minute later, the point guard dimed his Team GB teammate Luke Nelson for an inbound play that saw Nelson hit a corner 3-point shot.
If the first quarter gave the Patriots some hope that they could cause an upset, the second quarter saw those dreams dashed away. The Lions’ stifling defensive performance held Plymouth to a meagre eight points during the entire period.
London scorched the Devonshire outfit 22-0 during the first six minutes of the quarter, ballooning the margin to 45-16. Vet Rashad Hassan, who finished the game with 16 points, stopped the bleeding momentarily (48-18).
Unfortunately for Plymouth, the Lions ripped the band-aid off and went on an 8-2 run, highlighted by two triples from Hruban (53-20). Plymouth cut the lead to 29 points by the end of the quarter (53-24).
The Lions lost their way in the third quarter, conceding 25 points and holding London to “just” 18. The Patriots cut the capital city's advantage to 16 points shortly after the period's halfway mark, only for Hruban to light up the East London skies again with yet another triple (62-43).
Debutant Tarik Phillips scored his first points in a Lions jersey at the 02:09 mark of the period after turning his suffocating on-ball defence on Pats’ guard Will White into a fast break layup (65-44). The Lions were able to keep the Pats at bay off the back of a 6-2 run that saw Nelson connect from long-range twice during the sequence of plays (71-49).
London reignited their defensive stronghold during the last quarter, suppressing the Pats’ offence to just 13 points whilst scoring 25 points of their own.
Josh Sharma opened up the Lions’ fourth-quarter account, stealing the rock off former Lions player Jules Dang Akodo, and went coast-to-coast before flushing one of his signature one-handed dunks to the delight of the home fans (73-49). The Lions held Plymouth to several scoring droughts throughout the period, during which they were able to extend the lead to 27, 29, 31, 32 and eventually 34 points. The latter three extended leads resulted from Nelson and Mo Soluade’s back-to-back 3-points and Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić’s game-ending slam dunk (96-62).
Player of the game, Vojtech Hruban, lit up the East London skies knocking four 3-pointers whilst shooting 62% from the floor en route to 25 points. The small forward complimented his points total with one rebound, an assist and one block.
Fellow front-court sniper Tomislav ‘Zuba’ Zubčić contributed 15 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Zubčić shot an efficient 66% from the floor, 75% from 2-point range, along with 60% from long-distance.
Co-captain Aaron Best supported his comrades with 13 points, who grabbed four rebounds while knocking down two triples, dished out two assists, collected one steal, and blocked one shot.