Key weekend for young Lions

Division One sides face tough series of games

There’s a busy weekend for London Lions’ NBL teams as the season continues to gather pace.

David Lavinier’s women’s side face an important game at Barking Abbey Leisure Centre as they host Worcester Wolves, tip-off 2pm.

Lions go into the game sitting joint ninth with a 1-4 record while Wolves are eighth having won two of their five games.

Fatmata Janneh has led the young Lions, who are based around the Barking Abbey Academy, with 20.6 points, adding seven rebounds. Nicholle Lavinier adds 12.8 points and 4.3 boards, while Neve Marvill brings 6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and a team-high 4.2 assists.

Wolves are led by 15 points from Chandra Nunez, while Shona Williams leads their rebounding with 5.3 boards per game.

Lions will be hoping that the game follows last season’s pattern, with both fixtures finishing with lopsided victories for the home side.

Meanwhile the men’s team face a double header as Loughborough Riders are the visitors for a 4pm tip-off on Saturday before James Vear’s side make the trip to Worthing Thunder the following evening.

The young Lions go into the weekend sitting joint third in the table with a 4-1 record – their best start to life in Division One. Meanwhile Riders have made a surprisingly poor start to the season with only one win from five games and recently saw long-standing coach Mark Jarram step down to be replaced by Will Maynard.

Veteran big man Harrison Gamble leads a new-look Riders’ team with 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds while newcomer Justin Hadley adds 13.3 points, 8.5 boards and 5.8 assists. Last season’s only meeting between the sides saw 21 points from Jase Harrison and a 30-17 fourth period help Lions to a 91-86 home victory.

Despite Riders’ early season form, Vear isn’t expecting an easy game: “I know how they’ll play, especially now Will has taken over, he’s one of my best friends in basketball and I’ve spent a lot of time with him” he said.

“They’ll play really hard and their style is similar to ours in that they like to keep the ball moving and getting everyone touches. It’s going to be difficult because they desperately need a win, and they’re getting better week-on-week. They nearly beat Reading and they got close at Hemel.”

Thunder are more familiar opposition for the Lions, with the south coast side having beaten them 90-70 in the early-season L Lynch Trophy group stage. Worthing, who are also in action on Saturday, are one of the two sides Lions are tied with heading into the weekend with their only league loss coming against champions Solent Kestrels.

Worthing, who are owned by former Lions’ star Zaire Taylor, are led by Hafeez Abdul’s 20 points and 12 rebounds per game while Tom Ward brings 14.3 points and 7.7 boards to go with his team-high 4.7 assists and two assists.

Vear is ready for a challenging game in Sussex: “It’s the second half of a long weekend for us. It’s tough for all the sides on double-headers, they need to manage minutes for their best players and leave something in the tank for the second game. We have a big squad which helps us, and we’re looking to get at least one win” he said.

“Thunder are a team that a perennial top four side. We’ve played them multiple times over the last few years, we’ve picked up a couple of wins and ran them close. I’m hoping we can put in another good performance.”