London Lions 96 (Brown 21, Sturt 19, Marks 17)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 82 (Martin 17, Cooke 16, Gause 15)
London Lions, currently fifth in the BBL Championship, closed the gap on the top four with a crucial 96-82 defeat of Esh Group Eagles Newcastle, the team they are pursuing, at the Copperbox. A return home yielded a return to victory for the Lions, who have won their last five home games, although they had lost their previous three, all on the road; and it concluded a run in which they had played all of the top four consecutively, with this being the only victory against the title contenders. It was the first defeat in five games for the Eagles.
The Lions led for most of the game, withstanding a second quarter surge from the Eagles. Rod Brown, in his 200th BBL Championship game, led all scorers with 21 points and 11 assists, while Adrien Sturt also had a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Tight early exchanges were broken when Rod Brown scored six points in a 12-2 run over the last four minutes of the first quarter to give the Lions an early double-digit lead at 24-14. Midway through the second stanza the Eagles responded in kind as Malik Cooke scored eight points to get them back to within one at 33-32, and they took the lead at 37-38 with just over three minutes to play in the half on consecutive scores from Scott Martin. Charles Smith snatched his 500th steal in the BBL Championship in that run.
But Sturt restored the lead for the Lions and they held that through to 51-47 at the break. It was a tough game on the inside, as only two three-pointers were scored in the first half. The Lions scored 34 points in the paint and 10 points off the eight turnovers that they forced; while the Eagles had 16 second chance points from the offensive boards.
It looked like a close second half was in store when Martin opened it with a three-pointer to get the Eagles to within one, but the Lions held their nerve to push the lead back out again: they posted an 8-0 run over a four minute spell, with Chez Marks scoring six of those for a 59-50 lead. And once they got that advantage back into double-figures with a pair of three-pointers from Perry Lawson, a former Eagle, early in the fourth quarter it didn’t come down again. Sturt added another triple as the Lions found their range, before the lead peaked at 89-72 on Brown’s basket with three minutes to play and there was no way back for the visitors.