A poor start to the fourth quarter cost Lions as they went down 78-75 against Leicester Riders in the BBL Play-off final at the O2 on Sunday.
A capacity 18,000 crowd at the O2 Arena had seen Nikhil Lawry’s side lead by eight at the first break but they failed to trouble the scorers for almost six minutes as Riders completed a league, cup and play-off treble.
In a hear-stopping final few seconds, London had a chance to tie the game and take into overtime but turned the ball over as the majority of a raucous crowd went home disappointed.
As has often been the case this season, Isaiah Reese was in superb form as he led Lions with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Dirk Williams had another big night with 14 points, while Lorenzo Cugini finished with nine points and three boards.
Geno Crandall collected the MVP, finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Darien Nelson-Henry added 15 points and six boards
Williams opened the scoring with a triple, and after Riders replied with four points he hit a long two to put London back ahead.
A big Tawiah dunk followed by a Reese score got the crowd going before Nelson-Henry’s and-one tied the score at nine after four minutes. Reese dropped a pair of triples before forcing a turnover which Tawiah scored of to put Lions 19-11 ahead with 4:24 on the clock.
Williams converted an old-fashioned three before Reese resumed the onslaught from downtown to make it a ten-point game. Former Lion Connor Washington hit a try to keep his side in the game and Mo Walker’s tip-in cut the London advantage to 29-23 at half-time.
A long jumper from Cugini got Lions off the mark in the second period but a harsh offensive foul on Kelley followed by a Walker basket saw the game tied at 31, forcing a Lawry timeout with on the clock.
A pair of Jackson free-throws gave Riders their first lead since the early stages before a nice Josh Ward-Hibbert move to the basket tied the game at 33 with five minutes on the clock.
Riders replied with five before Reese buried a trey to take his tally to 16 points but Lions went two and a half minute without a basket, with Lawry calling a timeout with his side trailing 44-36 and 55 seconds on the clock.
Reese hit yet another triple to drag his side back into the game but Greg Crandall beat the shot clock to put Riders 46-39 ahead at half-time.
Reese opened the second half scoring for Lions with a driving lay-up before Williams scored a similar shot. It was Cugini who got the crowd back its feet with a big triple to pull Lions within a point before he hit a jump shot from the top of the key to put Lions 50-49 up and force a timeout from Rob Paternsotro with 6:13 on the clock.
Another Cugini jump er followed by a Reese lay-up saw the lead grow to five before Crandall missed a pair at the foul line.
Williams lightning drive to the basket saw him convert the bonus after being clattered by Marc Loving, and Lions lead hit double figures as Ward-Hibbert converted and Reese beat the buzzer to send his team into the fourth period with a 65-57 lead.
A big three from Washington sliced that lead to three with 70 seconds gone and the run continued as Walker’s score off an offensive rebounds put Riders 66-65 up when Lawry called a timeout with 7:05 on the clock.
The ball still wouldn’t drop through hoop for Lions as Crandall extended Riders’ run to 13-0 before Tawiah grabbed an offensive rebound and scored before sinking the bonus to make it 70-68 with 4:04 on the clock.
Crandall immediately replied before Julian Washburn made a two-point game, and Williams split a pair at the line to halve the deficit. Crandall scored inside the pain to put Riders up by three and force a Lawry timeout with 2:01 remaining.
Reese scored inside the paint to make it a one point game again before Walker was left along in the paint for a layup only to see Reese again answer
But Crandall hit another basket and after a crazy passage of play, Lions had the ball with 2:8 seconds on the clock and called a timeout. Lions inbounded the ball cross court and Crandall reacted first to steal the ball and seal the treble for the Riders.