720 Fans Roar As Lions Beat Mohawks
Teesside Lions 68-49 Tees Valley Mohawks
The stage was set for one of the biggest sporting events on Teesside as top of the table Teesside Lions welcomed their local rivals TV Mohawks into the Eston Arena, along with 720 spectators for what many have called the best atmosphere they have experienced at a basketball game.
There were 60 fans who came along to support the visitors and this helped generate a great spectacle even before the spicy derby game tipped off.
A high jump ball meant both players mis-timed the tip off and while Lions’ 7 foot Theo Turner eventually won the tip over 6’5 Acho Anyigbo the confusion sent the ball straight to Mohawks leading scorer Chris Jones who then missed his finish.
Lions responded with Turner close to the basket for a put-back finish prior to a Ross Wilson baseline drive, rise and emphatic dunk which elevated the Lions fans in stature and chorus; as Wilson himself roared at the rim.
The Mohawks would take four minutes to score in open play as Jai Naylor hit a 3-pointer, but this was sandwiched between two 3’s from the sharp shooting Thomas Wylie, who would also hit a third in the eighth minute. A drive from Ryan Harris in the seventh minute and a mid-range shot from Jake Butler in the ninth minute spared the blushes as Lions continued to assert their dominance on the game via Siman Stewart who controlled the paint at both ends of the court as Lions led by 9pts.
In the second quarter Butler began where he finished as he hit another shot, followed by Jack Jopson converting 1/2 free throws, but the 9pt lead was restored as Carl Alexander hit a big 3 off the glass.
The following five minutes saw Stewart and Wilson combine to score 12pts including an And-1 play from Wilson.
Alexander was another playing well for the Lions with some good passing and creativity from the point guard along with a nice finish off the drive in the ninth minute. A 16pt lead at half time left Mohawks looking for answers while the Lions fans were continuing with the carnival atmosphere and enjoying every moment.
In the third period Mohawks opened with a 3-pointer via Harris and outscored the hosts 11-6 in the first five minutes but never threatened the Lions lead as Turner, Wilson and Jack Wilson produced at important stages to a 10pt cushion.
This cushion was only ever penetrated in the eighth minute as Anyigbo inspired the guests with some good play at both ends of the court. His close jump shot fell nicely and Chris Jones made a lay-up on the break to bring the Mohawks to within 8pts.
In the final quarter, the hopes of the Mohawks fans were quickly drowned by the cheers of the 650+ Lions fans who yet again roared as Thomas Wylie hit another 3 and from there on Lions dominated the rest of the game as they out-scored the visitors 19-10.
The last basket was converted by birthday boy Dan Millican as he hit a smooth shot off the drive to celebrate his 17th birthday in dream fashion for the young Lions guard.
The MVP was a tussle between Siman Stewart and Ross Wilson. Stewart produced his best game in a Lions jersey with 15pts & 14 rebounds for a 15 efficiency rating. Only just edging Stewart was Ross Wilson who set the tone of the game with his emphatic dunk in the first few minutes on his way to leading scorer on 16pts, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 70% floor shooting for a 20 efficiency rating.
Lions biggest lead of the game was 19pts as Mohawks trailed the entire game. The Lions bench outscored the visitors 26-9 and dominated the rebounds 61-36.
Lions: Wilson R 16, Stewart 15, Wylie 14, Wilson J 9, Alexander 8
Mohawks: Jones 13, Jopson 9, Anyigbo 8, Butler 8
Lions have now opened a 2pt lead at the top of the table and have the head-to-head over Mohawks with two wins and just one loss.
Teesside will now prepare for an away trip to Calderdale Explorers at the weekend. The Explorers are currently fourth in the league and enjoying good form after beating Newcastle Eagles II and an impressive win over Sheffield Elite the previous week.
Lions Coach Marc Steutel is not taking anything for granted, despite beating Calderdale twice already this season.
“The next game is always the most important one. Our focus has quickly changed from enjoying the Mohawks victory and occasion, which was an excellent advert for basketball in this country, to now preparing for Calderdale.
“They are enjoying a good run which means we have to be at our best. We need to stay grounded and focussed as this is a tough league.” Said Coach Steutel.
Further tickets are on sale now via www.TeessideLions.com at just £6.50 adult, £4.50 u18/OAP and £16 for a family of four.
Spectators are requested to wear face masks in and around the venue, in accordance with new Government guidance.