London Lions 93 (23,52,67) (Hassan 18, Williams 18, Taylor 17)
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 86 (26,43,58) (Martin 16, Fletcher 15, Parks 15)
London Lions overcame Esh Group Eagles Newcastle by 93-86 at the Copper Box Arena on Wednesday night, to take the season head-to-head between the teams for the first time in 17 years.
Lions were led to what was also a first home win over Eagles in more than three years by a double-double from Rashad Hassan – the league’s leading scorer and third leading rebounder – of 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The teams traded runs in early exchanges that set the tone, before Eagles established a lead with a 12-4 run over the first quarter break when Drew Lasker scored the last five points of the period.
But Lions produced the decisive run before the end of a high-scoring first half. Hassan moved into double-figures as he scored eight in a startling 25-7 spell over six minutes, putting Lions in the ascendancy at 52-40 on a Kai Williams three-pointer.
Lions were playing with intensity, having scored 21 points from 13 turnovers forced, and when Navid Niktash opened the second half with an ‘and-one’ and Williams followed it with a triple, the lead was comfortably double-figures at 58-43.
The resilient Eagles weren’t done, getting back to within one shot after Lasker was there on the third quarter buzzer once more, in a run that became 12-2 over the break, as he also made an ‘and-one’, for 67-64.
But Williams hit a dagger three to halt that run, before a hard fought fourth quarter, and a Zaire Taylor three-pointer kept Lions in front 77-71 heading into the last five minutes. Eagles pushed, but another Taylor score and Niktash’s triple inside the final minute settled the game.
The win leaves strengthens London’s sixth position in the BBL Championship, but leaves Eagles adrift of Leicester Riders at the top. It is Newcastle’s fifth straight road defeat, and they remain winless away from home in the league in 2017.