Brandon Peel put up a double-double (23 points, 16 rebounds) as the London Lions got their British Basketball League season underway in style.
It was a good night too for Ladarius Tabb, who proved too hot to handle for Glasgow, and marked his debut with highlight reel slams that energised the crowd and helped him on his way to netting 20 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
The Lions continued the quality they have shown in preseason, chalking up a 100-66 victory despite new signing Jordan Spencer having to sit out the second half after hurting his back in a nasty fall in the dying minutes of the first.
The Lions took control early on and, despite a difficult end to the first quarter and start of the second, never really looked in any danger of losing. Straight out of the gate they were running strong defensive plays that left the Rocks stumbling.
Going into the final three minutes of the first and the Rocks had seen enough and needed a regroup. But immediately coming out of the timeout the Lions forced the turnover, keeping the lead in double digits.
The Rocks seemed to recover their composure at this point and started taking the fight to London, putting up 7 unanswered points before Peel got the jump shot to put the lead back up to 5. A needless foul in the final second of the first saw the Rocks reduce this lead still further, with the quarter finishing 18-15.
Jonathan James was clearly having none of this comeback talk. He took charge, helped by the force of Lamar Roberts, and with some quick and skilful play netted two shots from downtown that the Rocks couldn’t answer, giving the Lions some breathing space.
The Rocks then went into their strongest period of the game, reducing the lead to just one point then taking the lead themselves with 7.29 left on the clock for the half.
Both teams traded buckets, before the Lions started to edge ahead, slowly, methodically forcing mistakes from the Rocks and building back up the lead. At the break, it was a more comfortable 40-31 lead.
The Lions then took over the game. The Rocks were throwing everything they could at the home team but couldn’t seem to stop the score from creeping up. By the time Tabb converted a beautiful alley-oop with 4.35 to go in the quarter, the Lions lead was 14 points. And there was still more to come.
London seemed to be able to just take the ball and score at will, and a 14-point lead became an 18 point lead as Glasgow looked to be in real trouble – and knew it. A coach technical was swiftly followed by one on Gareth Murray to end the third 71-47 with the Lions cruising.
The fourth was a real treat for Lions fans, with dunks galore from Tabb and from Jerelle Okoro as the Lions frustrated the Rocks at every turn. Defensively the Lions were also putting in a shift, Kervin Bristol who arrived in the morning announced his arrival with a superb block, before two steals from Peel – one to set up another slam from Tabb and one he took up the court himself.
Fittingly, it was Peel who got London the hundredth point, with a smooth shot from behind the arc but throughout his 27 minutes on court you could see Justin Robinson orchestrating the team as the Lions sealed a comfortable and stylish start to what promises to be an entertaining BBL season.
The Lions are next in action in Plymouth on Sunday, before returning to the Copper Box to face Worcester on Friday, 28 September – tip off at 7.30pm.
(Pic -J. Robinson, Carol Moir, Report Phil Groves)
Lions Scorers; Peel 23, Tabb 20, Robinson 17, Larkai 9, Lockhart 7, Ikhinmwin 6, Okoro 6, James 6, Bristol 4, Spencer 2
Rocks Scorers; Ndiaye 13, Achara 12, Bunyan 11,