Will Neighbour had his biggest game of the season Lions opened their defence of the BBL Trophy with an 84-70 victory at Newcastle Eagles on Friday evening.
British big man Neighbour finished with 16 points, hitting three triples, and seven rebounds as Vince Macaulay’s team gained revenge for October’s league defeat in the north east.
All five of Lions’ starters finished in double digits, led by 18 Dirk Williams points. Kylor Kelley finished with a 15 point, ten rebound double-double while Julian Washburn added 14 points. Isaiah Reese missed out on a triple-double by just two rebounds having dished out an amazing 15 assists to go with his 11 points.
Eagles talisman Rahmon Fletcher led the hosts with 19 points and eight assists while big man Darius Defoe rolled back the years with a 17 point, ren rebound double-double but his side conceded 14 three-pointers and 21 points off turnovers as Lions led for almost all of the game.
Former Lion Brandon Peel scored the first basket of the game but that was as good as it got for the hosts as a blistering first period almost ended the game as a contest.
Neighbour’s first three pointer got Lions off the mark before Kelley dunked and triples from Washburn and Reese saw Lions blow into a 13-4 lead.
Williams hit the first of four triples, and the barrage from the Land of Plenty continued as Washburn and Neighbour drained before Williams hit his side seventh trey in just six minutes to give Lions a 25-4 lead.
Lions’ game switched inside with Kelley, Reese and Neighbour all converting in the paint before Williams hit a pair at the foul line and Lorenzo Cugini dropped a three-ball to send London into the first break with a commanding 36-11 lead.
Justin Robinson joined the three-fest with the opening score of the second period to give Lions a game-high 28 point lead. But inevitably the pace dropped with such an advantage and despite a spectacular alley-oop from Kelley off Reese’s pass and a Williams triple, Eagles trimmed the lead to 50-35 at half-time.
Washburn opened the second half with another triple and despite a pair of Defoe baskets, he again scored from downtown to make it a 16-point game two minutes into the second half.
Chris Tawiah marked his return to the team with back-to-back scores midway through the third period as Lions’ lead grew to 66-45 and triples from Washburn and Neighbour sent the visitors into the final break with a 72-52 advantage.
Five straight Williams points made it a 22 point game with just over four minutes gone in the final frame and Eagles never got the lead into single digits as Lions set up a trip to Manchester Giants in the last eight.