London Lions Win Hard-Fought First Leg Slugfest Playoff Clash, 77-71 Against Villeneuve d'Ascq. Herbert-Harrigan’s 21-Point, 6-Rebound, and 6-Assist Effort Helps to Secure Victory.
In front of a loud and supportive Copper Box Arena women’s FIBA EuroCup crowd, the London Lions beat former EuroCup champions 71-71 in the first leg of their round one playoff game.
Holly Winterburn got things off to a good start when she cut through the ESBVA defence, like a hot knife through butter, with a swift driving layup bucket. Paulina Hersler highlighted the early back-and-forth affair with her layup off Winterburn’s slick dime to the post. The bucket officially marked the Swedish national player’s return to the side, who suffered an injury early in the season, keeping the 6’3” center out for over two months.
Hersler’s bucket put the hometown squad up 10-7, followed by a 2-way steal and fast break transition play by “Kiki” Herbert-Harrigan. Winterburn pushed the lead to 14-7 with another driving layup via Hersler’s screen, which opened up a lane for the guard to get to the bucket.
ESBVA’s Kamiah Smalls hit a 3-point jump shot to close the gap to 4 points, but Paulina Hersler returned fire with a driving layup to push the Lions' lead to 6 points, 16-10. The slugfest continued as Villeneuve went on a 7-0 run to take a 16-17 lead. However, sharpshooter Katsiaryna Snytsina connected on a long-range triple to help the Londoners wrestle the lead back.
The period ended with the Lions clinging onto a 21-19 lead. This slender advantage was dissipated by the 07:45 mark of the second quarter when Myriam Djekoundade hit a driving layup to put the Northern-France-based team up 23-24. Holly Winterburn soon after tied the game when she hit one of two of her free throws. This was synonymous with the second quarter, with neitherteam able to extend nor hold on to too much of an advantage until the 02:55mark when ESBVA went on a 2-9 run to end the period. This surge put the formerFIBA EuroCup champs up 37-42.
Both teams struggled from the field in the third quarter, with the Lions only able to record 11 points and ESBVA not fairing much better with 13 allowing Villeneuve to slide into the fourth quarter with a 48-55 lead.
Herbert-Harrigan got the last period to a good start connecting on a driving layup to close the lead to 5 points. However, back-to-back buckets from Christelle Diallo pushed the ESBVA lead to 9 points, 50-59. With the support of the London Lions faithful getting louder and louder by the second, the hometown squad could go on a 10-2 run, closing the gap to just 1 point, 60-61. Captain marvel Shanice Beckford-Norton tied the game at 61 when she hit a free throw shot.
The Lions eventually took the lead at the 02:56 mark via free throw shots from Murray. However, ESBVA continued to fight back, grabbing offensive rebounds and giving their players additional chances to score.
The Londoners showed their grit when Snytsina hit a much-needed 3-point shot with just over two minutes left on the clock. 2-way menace Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan followed this up with an energy-raising block on Kariata Diaby. Katsiaryna Snytsina hit a driving layup to put the Lions up 72-69,
The Londoners showed their grit when Snytsina hit a much-needed 3-point shot with just over two minutes left on the clock. 2-way menace Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan followed this up with an energy-raising block on Kariata Diaby. Katsiaryna Snytsina hit a driving layup to put the Lions up 72-69. Kennedy Burke placed the London fan’s nerves at breaking point when she made a layup to close the close to 72-71.
However, “Kiki” settled the fan’s nerves when she connected on a long-range shot to extend the Lions’ lead to 74-71. Winterburn then put the cherry on the cake when she hit a game-ending 3-point shot to help London walk with a hard-fought 77-71 victory.
Katsiaryna Snytsina hit three crucial 3-pointers on her way to 13 points. She complimented this display with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal.
Starting in place of Kennedy Leonard was Taylor Murray to repaid coach Mark Clark's faith in her with a 13-point effort, shooting 71.5% from the paint.
Holly Winterburn missed out on a double-double with her 11-point and 9-assist contribution to the Lions' much-needed victory over their Northern-France-based rivals.
Paulina Hersler returned to the side after just over two months due to injury and looked like she hadn’t missed a step, recording 8 points, 2 rebounds and 1 dime in just 14 minutes.
Tune into the 2nd leg of the round on Wednesday 11th January 2023.