Another big second half comeback wasn’t enough as London Lions saw their hopes of a second straight BBL Cup final appearance end with a 79-74 loss at Leicester Riders.
Having recovered from a 23-point deficit in the first leg to only trail by three going into Thursday’s game, Lions were again down by a big margin at half-time but despite outscoring the hosts 40-27 in the second half they came up short.
Riders’ 178-170 aggregate victory means they will face Manchester Giants in the final at the NIA in a month’s time.
Lions’ Isaiah Reese led all scorers with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Dirk Williams had six assists to go with his 14 points. Lorenzo Cugini came off the bench for Vince Macaulay’s team to add seven boards and 13 points.
Zach Jackson led the hosts with 16 points and six rebounds, Marc Loving finished with an 11 point, 12 rebound double-double while Geno Crandall had an impressive 16 assists to go with his six points.
Dirk Williams’ driving layup was Lions’ only score of the first three minutes as Riders started with a 6-2 run. The lead grew to 13-6 before Dirk Williams drained from downtown and another drive to the basket to make it a two point game with 4:40 on the clock. Patrick Whelan and Cugini exchanged triples, and Reese kept Lions in touch at 26-20 going into the first period.
Reese made it a four point game two minutes into the second period but the quarter proved to ultimately be the difference between the sides as the hosts outscored Lions 26-14.
Jackson’s dunk launched the run, with Jackson, Whelan, Loving and Crendall all hitting triples as Riders took a 52-34 lead into the locker room at half-time,
But Lions refused to go quietly as they opened with three point plays from Reese and Julian Washburn before a pair of Reese drives made it a ten point game with three second half minutes gone.
Will Neighbour’s and-one followed by a Cugini turnaround jumper made it an eight point game before Reese trimmed two more off the deficit, only to see the hosts finish strongly to lead 67-57 at the final break.
Single free-throws from Kylor Kelley and Reese kept Lions in touch during the opening three minutes of the fourth period and a Washburn triple cut the deficit to 74-66 wat the midway stage of the frame.
Another Dirk Williams triple kept Lions within five on the night and a trademark Kelley dunk cut Riders’ lead to 76-71 with 2:30 on the clock, but Washburn’s trey was London’s final score of the night as they ran out of time.