It was a disappointing weekend for Lions two NBL Division One teams with three defeats but there was good news for the women as other results confirmed their place in Division One next season.
David Lavinier’s side went down to a narrow 62-60 loss against Thames Valley Cavaliers, but they will avoid relegation thanks to big wins against Worcester Wolves and Reading Rockets late in the season.
Lions fought back from a six point deficit at the final break, with Tamara Smith-White tying the game with 23 seconds remaining, only for Cavs’ Deborah Somoye to be sent to the foul line where she went one-from-two and with Lions forced to foul to stop the clock, Somoye again split a pair to ice the win.
Nicholle Lavinier hit five three-pointers in her team-high 17 points, adding seven rebounds and six assists while Grace Strickland finished with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a 40-minute performance. Tinu Fukunle added 11 points, six boards and four steals while Chenai Mushor has 12 rebounds to go with her eight points for a Lions team who were without leading scorer Fatmata Jennah. Katherine Goldsby led Cavs with a 17 point, ten rebound double-double while Somoye added 14 points off the bench.
Lions trailed throughout the first period and despite Smith-White’s drive to the basket went into the first break 17-11 down, and despite trailing by as many as ten points in the second quarter, Lavinier’s floater helped them close the game to 32-26 going into the locker room.
Three-point plays from Fakunle, Strickland and Lavinier kept Lions in touch during the third period as they again shared 30 points before Strickland scored the first four points of the fourth period to reduce the arrears to 47-45 with just under nine minutes on the clock.
A pair of Lavinier triples kept Lions within two points as they headed into the final 100 seconds, and after the visitors had gone three-from-five at the foul line Lavinier hit another triple to set up the grandstand finish.
A depleted men’s side also went down against Thames Valley as a side missing Bradley Kabouza and Brandon Tchouya due to the BBL Trophy final and the injured Jase Harrison and Elijah Maynard crashed to a 112-75 loss.
Reese Sundimalt led the home side for the first time this season, 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Denilson Caschilli added 15 points and Emmanuel Kanwei 10.Jakobi Bonner’s 24 points for Cavs led all scorers.
Lions matched the visitors in the early stages with Sundimalt’s jump shot put them 10-8 ahead after four minutes but a 9-2 run capped by AJ Roberts trey saw Cavaliers take control and after leading 38-23 at the first break Lions could never get back into the gam
Any outside chance of a play-off spot ended for the young Lions the following day as they went down 99-72 at Reading Rockets – a result that saw the Berkshire side clinch the final post-season spot.
Maynard returned to action, coming off the bench to lead the visitors with 22 points, Zach Weluche added 12 points and Joe Buchanan 11 while Cem Umer finished with an impressive 13 boards to go with his five points and three assists.
Caschilli’s triple gave Lions an early one point lead but the hosts promptly reeled of 19 unanswered points to take a hold on the game they would never lose.