London Lions
Sheffield Sharks

London Lions Lose 80-82 Nail-Biter to Sheffield Sharks—Sam Dekker’s 24 Points and 6 Rebounds Unable to Prevent Second Regular Season Loss to Yorkshire-Based Outfit.

On Friday, 23rd September 2022, the London Lions lost their first game of the regular season to the Sharks. However, the Londoners proceeded to take a 2-1 series lead after two consecutive wins en route to hopefully closing out their collection of games. However, the Atiba Lyons-coached side had other plans, beating the Lions 80-82 in a close encounter marred by poor officiating and missed opportunities. 

The clash opened in scorching form, with both teams exchanging 3-pointers within 14 seconds of each other. However, whilst watching the away team sink back-to-back buckets (3-7), the home faithful would have to wait almost three minutes to see their favourite team score again (5-7). Several unfortunate unforced turnovers and several missed shots (including two at the free throw line) caused this early drought (one of several throughout the game).

Sam Dekker’s “old fashioned” three-point, and-1 play via his straight-line drive to the basket started to raise the spirits of the home faithful (6-7). The Lions snatched the lead from the Sharks when Miye Oni threw a cross-court skip-pass to Tomislav Zubcic in the corner pocket, who found Josh Sharma under the basket, calling for the rock as he sealed off Shark big man Koch (8-7). 

Oni, a 2020 Olympian, followed this up with his solo 4-0 run, highlighted by his one-arm dunk off the back of the Lions’ suffocating hustle defence and Zuba’s floated assist during the fast break (12-7). Unfortunately, the London advantage was short-lived, as the Sharks took the lead back from the Lions after they went on a vicious 11-0 surge. Dishearteningly, some of the points “earned” by the Sharks resulted from a couple of missed-timed fouls the Lions caused attempting to stop the run. 

The Sharks’ scoring foray caused Head Coach Ryan Schmidt to call a timeout but to no avail. The Lions could only record one point in the last minute and 34 seconds of the quarter, while the Sharks continued their scoring run to close the period. 

The Londoner’s got off to a bad start in the second quarter turning the ball over a mere 11 seconds into the period. Pesky Sharks guard Devearl Ramsey, who finished the game with 22 points, picked off Mo Soluade’s pass and charged towards the open basket. Jordan Taylor closely trailed Ramsey but placed his left arm behind his back, fearing being called for a foul. Alas, Taylor, who finished the game with three assists, was called for the cynical foul, continuing the trend of poor officiating throughout the game (13-25).

Soluade made up for his earlier mishap by draining a triple, an opportunity given to him via Jordan Taylor’s drive and kick-out pass (16-25). After that, the Sharks’ points advantage fluctuated between 12 and eight points for almost five minutes as the Lions attempted to claw themselves back into the game. 

The Lions eventually went on a 7-0 (35-38) run shortly after a confusing sequence of calls that perplexed and bewildered both teams, coaches, and the fans in attendance. London continued to fight back but had to go toe-to-toe with Kipper Nichols and Ramsey. The Sharks’ forward-guard exchanged heavily contested duo scoring duties as the Lions attempted to shave more points off Sheffield’s lead towards the end of the period 42-45). 

The third quarter saw the Lions put on their most efficient scoring output and best defensive display throughout the game. The Lions recorded 26 points but only conceded 14. Oni and Dekker took charge of proceedings early, igniting a 10-4 run that helped London take the lead back from the Yorkshire outfit (52-49). 

Saeed Nelson (no relation to Luke) stopped this surge momentarily, but only for Miye Oni to sink another triple to give the Lions a 55-51 lead. Moments after Saeed Nelson hit another bucket, Zuba extended the advantage to five points (60-55). Luke Nelson eventually put some distance between the two teams when he hit a pull-up 3-point jumper, increasing the margin to eight points (65-57). Josh Sharma ended the period with an and-1 play that ballooned the Lions' breathing space to nine points.

The opening two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter saw the two rivals exchange buckets one after the other, but the Sharks could only get as close as eight points (72-64). Several moments later, a Dekker and-1 play saw the Lions claim an 11-point lead. But the Sharks again refused to buckle and fought back, getting within three points of the hosts with 03:30 left on the clock (77-74). 

A missed Oni 3-point shot resulted in a quick outlet pass to Sharks’ Portuguese-American forward Jordan Ratinho, who sunk a triple, to the chagrin of the home fans. Rodney Glasgow Jr followed this up with a triple of his own, snatching the lead back from the Londoners (77-80), causing London to call a timeout. To the delight of the home faithful, the Lions’ ATO went as planned, and Luke Nelson hit to lead off a 3-pointer; however, the poor defence caused the Lions to concede a Rodney Glasgow Jr mid-range shot that condemned the Lions to defeat.

Talisman Sam Dekker fought through a difficult shooting night to record 24 points connecting on 44% (8/18) of his shots from the field and 85% of his free throw attempts. The combo forward complimented his scoring output with six rebounds, two steals and one assist.

Continuing his excellent run of scoring form, Miye Oni contributed 14 points, along with eight rebounds and two assists. The one-time Olympian shot 50% from the floor and was only one of two Lions players to make all his free throw shots. 

The other player to connect on all his free throws was Tomislav “Zuba” Zubcic, who drained all six of his charity stripe attempts en route to 14 points, three assists and two steals.

The bench mob combined for 26 points, with GB star Luke Nelson leading with nine points on 50% shooting from the field. 2-Way guard Mo Soluade recorded eight points, three assists and two rebounds. Josh Sharma had seven points, three rebounds, one assist and one block. Vojtech Hruban had a tough shooting afternoon, connecting only one of his six attempts from open play, but he could grab two rebounds and three assists. 

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