Giants 76 - 87 Lions
The Manchester Giants welcomed table-toppers London Lions to the National Basketball Performance Centre for the Friday night Sky Sports match-up, with a highly entertaining game ending 76-87 to the visitors.
Despite the stellar performance of usual suspect Dirk Williams, who had 22 points and five rebounds, and the customary commanding night of Rahmon Fletcher with 15 points and nine assists, the Giants fell just short against a solid Lions team.
On a night that saw new recruit Kofi Josephs make his highly-anticipated debut, with rupturous applause welcoming his first points as a Giant, home fans feasted their eyes on two of the British Basketball League’s finest outfits facing off in a feisty affair with a distinct playoff feel.
Vince Macaulay’s men got things underway in sensational fashion in front of a near-capacity Belle Vue, as club captain Fletcher finished the first quarter with double-digit scoring.
And while the opening quarter ended with the scores at 31-18 - and the Lions seemingly still asleep on the team bus - the second period was to be a much more balanced affair as the visitors fought back to go in at the half at 49-42.
Unwavering effort on the defensive end was the order of the day for Coach Macaulay’s men, who knew any lapses in concentration would be punished against a side who had lost just twice in the BBL all season.
And it was Nick Lewis and Tajh Green who led the way in the rebounding department, adding ten and nine rebounds in the game respectively.
The BBL’s top team took until the midway point of the third to get their first lead of the night, as a technical foul on Fletcher for disputing a call sent former NBA man Sam Dekker to the charity stripe, on his way to a team-high 23 points on the night.
But the visitors were to get into their own altercation with the referees just moments later, as a tug at the arm of Dirk Williams by Lions’ guard Olumiye Oni led to harsh words being directed at the officials by the visiting team – and technical for head coach Ryan Schmidt.
As the final quarter got underway it was the turn of the Lions to put together an offensive run, shooting out to an 11-point lead with eight minutes to go until the final buzzer.
But the Giants refused to let the team from the capital push them around, fighting back to within two possessions of the BBL Trophy winners in a spirited resistance on their home court.
Unfortunately, the Giants’ troubles from beyond the arc – shooting just 5/24 from outside – and some vital missed free throws in the middle of the final quarter when the momentum seemed to be changing were enough for the Lions to take the game by the neck and take two points back to the capital.
A lay-up from Anthony Roberson were to add the game’s final points, and as the referees called time, the score sat at 76-87 to the Schmidt’s Lions, with their 11-point victory not entirely representative of a highly spirited effort by Macaulay’s men.
Head Coach Vince Macaulay said: " I thought we played a really great game for most of the game. I thought we got a bit tired towards the end with our eight man rotation".
"What we can take away from here is what we are doing is going to be successful".