Vear ready for huge weekend

It's the biggest weekend of the season for London Lions II as they face key games in both Division One and the Men's National Cup.

James Vear's side host Leicester Warriors at Barking Abbey in a league game on Saturday afternoon (4pm - free entry) before travelling to holders Solent Kestrels in the Cup semi-final the following day.  

A tough start to the season will see Warriors arrive in east London sitting 13th in the 14-team division with one win from 11 games, and they appear to be in a three-way battle with Oaklands Wolves and Essex Rebels to avoid the two relegation spots. The young Lions are sixth in the table with a 6-5 record and one of those six victories came when they visited the midlands team on the opening day of the league season and a dominant performance saw the chalk up an 83-63 victory.

Sunday's opponents Kestrels have been the dominant force in the NBL over the last few years having won the Division One title for three straight seasons and have also won the last four National of the last five knockout competitions. They went unbeaten in NBL competitions during the 2019/20 season and became the first second tier team to reach a major final when they beat three BBL sides on their way to the BBL Trophy final where they lost against Newcastle Eagles. However Solent, who include former Lions England Orlan Jackman in their line-up,  have proved a little more vulnerable this season having already lost twice in 12 league games to sit second in the table behind Worthing and suffered a big defeat at Derby in the L Lynch Trophy semi-final. Lions have already lost in both the league and Trophy to Kestrels this season and will be looking for their first victory against Matt Guymon's side.

Lions’ final weekend of 2021 saw them produce arguably the biggest shock of the Division One season with a victory at Thames Valley Cavaliers before winning at another high-flying side, Hemel Storm, the following day to reach the Cup semi-final, and coach Vear is hoping that form can continue this weekend:

“It would have been great to continue that momentum and we really didn’t want to season to stop again, but hopefully a lot of the niggles have cleared up" he said. "If we could get our full squad available at the same time, I think we have one of the strongest 12s in the league."
“You can never be sure what kind of team Leicester will bring. Their American Van Turner is very good, I think he’s one of the top scorers in the league. Delaney Powell has been their most consistent player, we’ve played against him for a number of years and we know we’ll need to stop him."

Turner is the fourth in the league scoring table with 25.5 points, hitting five triples, per game and adding 4.3 rebounds.

Vear is well aware what to expect when his side travel to the south coast the following afternoon:

"I've seen so much of Matt and his side, I think I know them better than my own" he joked. "He's one of my best friends in basketball  but you can have too much of a good thing."
“The league remains our priority and we’re aiming for a play-off spot which all the players have bought into. So we’re taking it one game at a time, but obviously we’re looking forward to the Cup semi-final in Solent. It would have been nice to get a home draw but we weren’t surprised to be away."
“Kestrels are the best team in Division One on their day and can beat many of the BBL sides, but we’ve done a lot of work watching them and working on ways to get at them. We need to work on out X’s and O’s, but above all the guys need to believe that we can beat them. We’ve won at Thames Valley who’ve beaten Solent in their place, so if we can carry the momentum on from before Christmas we have a chance.”

Lions WNBL team also face Solent when the south coast side visit Barking Abbey for a 2pm tip-off on Saturday afternoon.

David Lavinier's young academy side have had a tough season with only one win from nine games and will face a Kestrels side who are seventh in the 12-team league with a 4-5 record.

The Lions will be looking for revenge against Kestrels as they never recovered from a poor first period in their opening league game of the campaign, going down 77-53.