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LIONS ALMOST DISPELL MAGIC
Teesside Lions MenV
Sunday 1st October|
Teesside Lions 78-81 Manchester Magic
Teesside Lions showed a little of everything in an edge of the seat thriller at Eston Arena. Newly promoted Lions faced newly relegated Manchester Magic in the NBL Division 2 season opener.
It was a tough baptism for Teesside as the former D1 Magic are highlighted as one of the stronger teams in the league and almost upset current D1 side Newcastle University in the Kitking Trophy.
The game started with both teams trading blows Luke Mitchell opened the Lions account with a strong finish through a crowd. Tyme Regent-Bascome and Noah Togo delivering for the visitors.
Tom Horvat started to warm up with a few nice moves, but this ignition was dampened with two 3’s from Andre Gayle to create separation in the scoreline. Another weaving finish from Mitchell would take away the sting, but at the end of the quarter Teesside were down 14-21.
The second quarter was a rollercoaster as a strong start from Manchester saw them extend their lead to 19pts. It was frustrating for Teesside Coach Serge Bojev as Lions were in the game in most areas but the lapses in concentration and transition defence were costing the hosts dearly.
Gayle and Regent-Boscome were at the heart of the Manchester offence, balanced with great defensive play from Davies, Pearce and Goodall who were taking turns and often combining to restrict the effect of Lions 7 foot centre Theo Turner.
Turner however did manage to get the better of his defenders and set off a good run for the home team with a powerful spin finish in the low post.
The And-1 finish from Tyrese Nfon along with a pair of free throws at the end of half time brought Lions back to within 10pts, 29-39.
The second half was a great one for Teesside in which the hosts won both quarters 24-19 & 25-22.
The start of the third period saw a 3-pointer from Togo countered with 3’s from Luca Gaillet, Nfon & Mitchell. Nfon added 7pts including another And-1 finish and Turner battled down low for some hard worked points in the paint to bring Lions back into the game. A huge 3-pointer from Horvat in the final seconds of the third reduced the deficit to just 6pts, 53-59.
The atmosphere was electric as the Teesside faithful were kept on the edge of their seat in what was a great advert for British basketball.
Tom Horvat hit 10pts in the fourth quarter and an heroic performance from Luca Gaillet throughout the game almost culminated in an heroic finish to win the game.
With the game seemingly beyond reach as Teesside were down by 9pts, 68-77 with time running out. Arron Maxwell calmly converted two free throws to reduce to 7pts. This was then followed by a strong defensive stop by Teesside, and a smooth finish by Nfon.
Momentum was now firmly with Teesside and a 3-pointer from Gaillet send the crowd wild. With less than 5 seconds remaining Mitchell was fouled in the act of shooting and went to the line with an opportunity to tie the game. The first shot missed, second converted, and Lions were forced to foul which would send Togo to the line at the other end to convert both his free throws.
With 0.4 seconds on the clock Coach Bojev drew up the play and Lions managed to find Gaillet to release the three pointer that would send the game into overtime.
Unfortunately for the home side, a fairytale ending was not to be as the shot missed, but new Teesside heroes were established and the team showed resilience, character and ability against one of the best in the league.
Coach Bojev was pleased with the overall performance but highlighted concentration as a critical factor. “I am pleased with our heart and effort. We were controlled and organised for large parts of this game, but we cannot afford to sleep or even close our eyes at this level.
“The missed free throw or 3pt attempt at the end did not lose us this game, it was the one of many mistake earlier in the game. If we remove just one of those, we win the game by 1pt.
“This is something we will work on. We are still coming together as a team and I am pleased with the progress we are making.”
Game MVP: Tyrese Nfon
There were multiple contenders with a blazing fourth quarter from Tom Horvat and a strong performance throughout the game from Luca Gaillet but a 22pt haul and consistent showing from Nfon including tough baskets and stops at critical times richly deserved the honour.
Teesside: Nfon 22, Horvat 21, Turner 13, Gaillet 8, Mitchell 8
Manchester: Gayle 23, Togo 18, Elly 8
Teesside have a run of four home games starting with this Sunday hosting Derbyshire Arrows at 2.30pm tip in the National Cup. Tickets are available at TeessideLions.com
Photo Credit: Dawn McNamara
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