Lions’ Division One women’s team went agonisingly close to a shock win at champions CoLA Southwark Pride while the men’s Division One team suffered a pair of contrasting losses over the weekend.
Pride went into the game having already been crowned champions, and looked well on their way to a victory before a 20-5 fourth period saw Lions just come up short, 58-57. London finished ninth in the 12-team Division One as four wins in a five game spell saw the overcome a poor start to the season.
Nicholle Lavinier led the visitors scoring, draining four triples on her way to 19 points, adding four rebounds and three steals. Fatmata Janneh finished with 12 points and five rebounds, while Grace Strickland, Tamara Smith-White and Tinu Fakunle each finished with eight points for David Lavinier’s team.
Fakunle opened the scoring and Lavinier hit her first triple as London started well and with Janneh and Lavinier both scoring from downtown Lions led throughout the opening period and took a 24-11 lead into the first break.
The second period proved to be much tougher for the visitors, and although they held a 31-24 lead at the five minute mark, only Lavinier and Fukunle troubled the scorers again in the half as Pride closed on an 11-4 run to lead 37-35 at half-time.
If the second quarter was tough for Lions, the third was a disaster as CoLA showed why they won the league and will also play in the final of the Women’s Elite Basketball League. Only Janneh added to her points tally with a pair of free-throws midway through the frame as Pride poured in 16 points to take a seemingly unassailable 53-37 lead into the final break.
Lavinier made it a 13 point with 6:37 on the clock as she sunk a triple but it was still a double-digit deficit with three minutes on the clock despite a Grace Strickland three-pointer.
Strickland then hit a pair at the line and Smith-White’s jumper took the margin down to six with 72 seconds remaining. Smith-White then hit a jumper to make it a four point game and 40 seconds left before Lavinier halved that deficit 21 clicks left.
Lavinier drove to the basket and was fouled with five second remaining. She hit the first free-throw but the second rimmed out, leaving Anderson to grab the rebound as the hosts held on for the win.
Meanwhile the men finished tenth in Division One after a pair of contrasting losses over the weekend.
Saturday saw them also go close to a victory before going down 88-86against Bradford Dragons while Sunday saw a 100-73 loss at Derby Trailblalzers.
It was a game of runs with Lions starting well to lead 28-18 at the first break as Rhys Sundimalt poured in five three points before a strong second period from Dragons saw them take a 47-41 advantage into the half-time break, A 20-17 third period saw Lions reduce the deficit to 60-58 at the final break but Lions were never able to get over the hump as Dragons held on the first win.
Sundimalt drained six triples on the way to a team-high 24 points, Elijah Maynard added 17 and both Brandon Tchouya and Kanwei 13 apiece.
The following day saw in-form Derby prove too strong for a Lions team showing signs of fatigue after a hectic end to the season.
The margin of victory could have been greater had Sundimalt not continued his fine form by converting four three-pointers. Sundimalt went on to top score for the visitors for the second straight day with 18 points and three assists. Captain Maynard finished on 16 points and four boards while Stephen Asante and Haydn Ling each finished with ten rebounds and five points. Tchouya had nine points, three rebounds and as many assists. Derby were led by Blake Bowman, who scored 26 points, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out six assists.
The damage was done in the second half as Lions competed well in the first half, with Tchouya’s floater giving them a 20-15 lead after eight minutes of action before ‘Blazers finished the first period strongly with seven unanswered points.
Zach Weluche tied the score with the opening basket of the second period and although Boman’s and-one saw Blazers take a 40-31 lead with 3:34 remaining in the half, Lions closed out the frame on a 7-0 run as Stephen Asante drained a triple to cut the deficit to 40-38 going into the locker room.
Tchouya;s lay-up made it a tied game a minute into the third period but that proved to be as good as it got for the visitors as Derby moved into top gear – outscored them 32-6 during the rest of the quarter to effectively wrap up the win.