London Lions Lose 75-76 Nailbiter to Roche Vendee but Qualify for the Next Round of FIBA EuroCup Women. Holly Winterburn Led the Lions with a 19-Point, 9-Rebound Effort, Whilst “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan and Katsiaryna Snytsina Combined for 32 Points in the One-Point Defeat.
After a difficult first two quarters, the London Lions used their second-half surge to fight their way back from a 24-point deficit against Roche Vendee but lost the entertaining nail-biter by one point, 75-76.
On a gameday where several scenarios were at play that could have seen the Lions through to the next round of the EuroCup or possibly knocked out, London was able to book their tickets to round 1 of the FIBA EuroCup Women's play-offs.
Despite shooting 4 of 12 from the field, Holly Winterburn led the Lions with 19 points and 9 rebounds alongside 3 assists and 2 steals. Her team-leading points tally was bolstered by her game-high 9 buckets from the free throw line on a game-high 12 attempts.
Katsiaryna Snytsina hit four much-needed 3-point shots to the tune of 16 points to go with 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Mikiah “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan also contributed 16 points to the Lions' efforts, along with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.
In a first half to forget, the Londoners struggled in different areas and, as a result, had to fight an uphill battle to get back into the game. Looking to avenge their 90-79 loss to the Lions, Roche Vendee opened the game with a 9-0. However, this run was halted by back-to-back buckets from Ty Battle, contributing to the Lions’ own 0-6 run.
By the halfway point of the first period, Roche Vendee led 15-6, with the help of 6 fast break points and 9 rebounds, compared to just 2 rebounds by the Lions. London’s usual free-flowing-ball-sharing offence was at a standstill as they could only record one assist during the first quarter. This dime came courtesy of a Holly Winterburn dish to Snytsina, who subsequently hit a much-needed 3-point shot to take the score to 18-11 in favour of Roche Vendee.
By the end of the first quarter, the La Roche-sur-Yon-based team had outrebounded the Lions 11-5 and had spent over nine minutes leading the game.
The second quarter didn’t fair too well for the Londoners either. “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan’s early block on Kaleena Lewis helped to galvanise some energy for the Lion, but that was quickly muted a mere 15 seconds later when Kaleena Lewis got her revenge with a long-range 3-point shot.
Several notable areas plagued the Lions' ability to close the gap on their French rivals—these included turnovers, where the Londoners had conceded 8 compared to La Roche’s 5. The Lions also picked up 12 fouls, some of which sent Naomi Mbandu, Tima Pouye and Tiffany Clarke to the free-throw line.
By half-time, La Roche held a commanding 20-point, 54-34 lead over the Lions. This lead was highlighted by Roche Vendee dominating the fast break points, 19-12 and the boards, 26-13.
The Lions’ second-half fight-back started with Snytsina when she hit a triple, but this was countered when Ana Suarez returned the fire with her 3-point make. An unsportsmanlike foul on Taylor Murray kicked off the Lions' 3-7 run, which “Kiki” added another 3 points to when she connected from beyond the arc to take the score to 57-44.
Triples from forwards Katsiaryna Snytsina and “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan helped the Lions cut La Roche’s lead to 14 points. Snytsina cut that lead down by another 2 points when she hit an end-of-quarter bucket in the paint with 26 seconds left on the clock in the third period.
On the back of their third-quarter resurgence, the Lions went on an energy-cementing 0-5 run to open the fourth quarter. As La Roche attempted to fight back, the Lions kept their rival’s offence at bay, forcing them into turnovers and missed shots.
A huge scoring run, highlighted by a Kennedy Leonard 3-point bucket, allowed the Lions to close the gap to 75-71 with less than 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Holly Winterburn withered Roche Vendee’s lead down to 2 points when she hit 2 crunch-time free-throw shots with a mere 18 seconds until the end of the game. However, one second later, La Roche’s Ana Suarez drew a foul but could only convert one of her two shots, putting the French side up 76-73.
With the dying seconds of the period winding down, Team Scotland Commonwealth national player Kennedy Leonard dribbled the rock to the halfway line, where she handed the ball off to Holly Winterburn.
Winterburn then drove to the right-hand side of the 3-point arc, where she attempted a shot, was subsequently fouled and was awarded three shots from the charity stripe.
Winterburn took to the free-throw line but missed the last attempt, condemning the Lions to defeat. However, all was not lost, as other results went their way. ESBVA’s 68-48 win over Dinamo Sassari means the Lions finish second, as they hold the head-to-head over Roche Vendee.