Advantage Lions after their 91-97 victory away to the Plymouth Raiders on Sunday 5th May 2019 in the BBL Benecos Playoffs Quarter Final First Leg.
The Plymouth Raiders brought their best in front of a packed out Pavilion, led by 22 points from MVP Candidate and player of the month Donte Nicholas and 15 points from 40 minute iron man Joshua Wilcher.
The Lions were led by Jordan Spencer, who played a fantastic all around game, ending with 13-5-11. Spencer’s shooting was a wayward 4-16, but was flawless from the line and brought so much effort, energy and leadership to the Lions, especially in the third quarter that turned the game in the Lions’ favour.
The first quarter was controlled, for the most part, by the Londoners until the final minute or so as a great comeback from the Raiders brought the gap to four points, 20-24 to the visitors.
Nicholas scored four points and Denzel Ubario made a three in the dying moments of the quarter for a 7-0 scoring run to slash the Lions lead that had grown to 11, but had been as high as 12, thanks to a roaring start from Ladarius Tabb (Tabb would finish with 23 points of 9-11 shooting).
The second quarter started like a dream for the hosts as they shrunk the score to just one point and got early fouls on the Lions, who would be in foul trouble throughout the contest. Brandon Peel settled Lions fans nerves with a two point effort and Jerelle Okoro drained a triple to get the Lions lead up to four following an Ubario lay up.
Peel played another near perfect game for the Lions, securing yet another double-double, 26 points, 11 rebounds, going 11-12 from the free throw line.
The Lions grew the lead back up to seven points, but the Raiders battled hard and thanks to a 9-4 run from Joshua Wilcher alone to take a two point lead into the half, 45-43 to send the Pavilion into rapture.
Jordan Spencer started the third quarter hot and was the most important player on the floor for that ten minutes, even though his shot didn’t always go down, his nine points in the quarter and the high intensity, high energy style of play gave the Lions a lead with ten to play.
An animated Vince Macaulay was forced to manage the minutes of MVP Justin Robinson who picked up his third foul in the contest in the second quarter. Robinson, who had an excellent game scoring 13-7-6 despite the foul trouble, fouled out of the game with three minutes to play in the final stanza.
The final ten minutes of the game saw the lead bounce back and forth between the two sides as Plymouth continued to make hay at the foul line (finishing the game 24-33 from the stripe) but it would be MVP Justin Robinson who would arguably win the contest for the Lions with a crucial three pointer, with four minutes to play, before he picked up his fifth foul moments later.
From that point in the contest, while the sides traded buckets, the Lions didn’t let their lead slip and would finish the contest with a six point advantage heading into tomorrow afternoon’s second leg.
Raiders captain Zak Wells, playing what could be his final game in-front of his home fans as he retires at the end of the season, played limited but solid minutes in the loss against his former team.
The Lions host the Raiders tomorrow afternoon, Monday, at 4pm, in the Copper Box Arena in London, live on Youtube.