James Vear's reign as London Lions' coach started with a victory as Newcastle Eagles were beaten 103-94 at the Copper Box, on Sunday.
It was a second straight victory for the Lions, but they had to withstand a third period comeback from the north east side before improving their league record to 4&2. Vear's team led 58-41 at half-time before Eagles fought their way back into the game with a 30-18 third period before London regained the initiative in the final five minutes to get the win.
Vear was understandably happy to pick up a win in first game in charge of the Lions:
"It was good to get the first win out of the way" he said. "We played really well in the first half and did some good things, but we let them get into a rhythm in the third period and the fourth quarter was back and forth. But we hit some big shots to get the win. It was nice to start with a victory, although the guys did make my life difficult at times!"
Isaiah Reese led a balanced Lions' offence that saw six players finishing in double figures, downing four triples in his 25 point haul, while Dirk Williams hit three treys on the way to a 24 point night. Kylor Kelley had seven rebounds to go with his 14 points and Lorenzo Cugini added five assists to a 13-point game. Captain Justin Robinson also had five assists to go with 11 points, while Will Neighbour continued his good form with ten points and five boards.
Wes Person and Rahmon Fletcher had 22 points apiece for Eagles, with the latter adding ten assists, while former Lion Brandon Peel had a 12 point, 16 rebound double-double.
Kelley got things off to a spectacular start with an alley-oop off Julian Washburn's assist before blocking Darius Defoe's shot. He managed another dunk off a Reese assist while Cugini, Washburn and Reese all scored from downtown as Lions raced into a 15-5 lead after five minutes. Kelley continued his dunk-blitz as the lead grew to 15 before a fade away and a triple from Neighbour saw Lions take a 27-14 lead into the first break.
Robinson opened Lions' second period scoring with a shot from the Land of Plenty before Williams got hot - scoring twice outside the arc and twice inside - as his ten straight points saw Lions lead 40-21 after four minutes.
Back-to-back Reese triples kept Lions in charge before Cugini scored from outside the arc to make it a 20-point game with 150 seconds on the clock, and Robinson's jump shot saw Lions take a 17-point lead into locker room at half-time.
Peel and Kelley exchanged baskets to open the second half, but former BBL MVP Fletcher got the lead into single figures after just two minutes and a Person triple saw the lead shrink to 66-62 with 3:43 on the clock.
A Williams trey followed by a step back jump shot settled Lions but, after Cugini and Person had exchanged triples, it took a Robinson jumper to give Lions a 76-71 lead at the final break.
That advantage shrunk to a single point as Kai Williams and Shelton opened the fourth period scoring, before Reese converted a floater to keep the hosts ahead
Peel made it a three point game heading into the final five minutes, but it was Reese who finally got Lions moving as he calmly converted three free-throws after being fouled by Defoe. Peel and Neighbour exchanged baskets as London took a six point lead into the final 100 seconds.
Eagles had one last big shot as Person scored from downtown but Williams converted a step-back, and after Fletcher had missed a shot Reese and Robinson wrapped up the win at the foul line.