London Lions completed arguably the biggest 24 hours in club history as they returned from their Euro Cup Women tie at Rutronik Stars Keltern with a thrilling 81-78 victory, on Thursday.
Jo Leedham hit a dagger trey with 77 seconds left on the clock to put Mark Clark’s side up by three points, and after Agnieszka Skobel had made the score 79-78 with 36 seconds remaining, Kennedy Leonard coolly sunk a pair of free-throws with 4.2 seconds left to seal the win.
Even without Holly Winterburn, Lions had started well to lead 19-14 at the first break, only to see that advantage disappear with a tough second period and they trailed for much of the rest of the game before finishing strongly to open the group stage with a victory.
Leonard led Clark’s team with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds, while Shanice Beckford-Norton had arguably her best game of a season that has seen Lions win six of their seven games as she poured in 19 points. Cassie Breen also finished with 19 points while Leedham missed a double-double by a single rebound, finishing with 11 points and adding three assists. The hosts were led by Agnieska Skobel’s 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Leedham drained from the Land of Plenty to get the scoreboard moving after 90 seconds, but a tight start saw the teams locked at 7-7 midway through the first period before Steph Umeh capped a 5-0 run to close the quarter and send Lions into the opening break ahead by five.
Sanja Mandic tied the game at 19 with two second period minutes gone, and it took a further 67 seconds for Azania Stewart to get London off the mark as she converted Breen’s assist to cut the hosts’ lead to a single point.
Stewart converted another lay-up to keep Lions ahead but the hosts controlled the final six minutes of the half, and it took a pair of Leonard foul shots to keep Keltern’s lead down to 34-32 going into the locker room at half-time.
The third period was a classic nip-and-tuck encounter as the sides swapped baskets for most of the ten minutes. Leedham’s lay-up levelled things at 42 after 200 seconds of action. But the home side pulled away in the closing stages with Breanna Richardson taking their lead out to 57-50 with two minutes remaining .
Breen drained a triple off Leonard’s assist before a great saw Leedham steal the ball before passing to Leonard who gave the ball up for another Breen trey to make it a one point game.
Matea Tavic’s jumper sent the hosts into the final break leading 59-56 and Linn Schuler made it a five point game a minute into the fourth period.
That lead grew to eight before Stewart dunked to keep them in touch at 64-58 with two minutes gone and Lions were still in touch as the hosts led 70-65 with five minutes on the clock.
Leonard drained from downtown before Beckford-Norton tied things at foul line a minute later. It was still tied with two minutes on the clock following a Leonard jumper before Leedham sparked the thrilling ending which gave Lions the win.