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LIONS BOW OUT BUT RAISE BROWS WITH FIRST QTR TO REMEMBER
Teesside Lions Men
Sunday 12th November|
Teesside bowed out of the National Cup following defeat away to current four Trophy Champions Hemel Storm, but will take solace in a first half to remember as they calmed the Storm; winning the first quarter 23-31.
It was a David v Goliath encounter as newly promoted Division Two team Teesside travelled to established Division One Hemel who are the current title holders of league, playoffs, Kit-King Trophy and the National Cup.
A gulf was expected, especially as Teesside were missing three key players and undersized when compared to the presence of 6’8 pair Hakeem Sylla and New Zealand International Brayden Inger to mention but two.
The gulf however was in favour of the visitors as the Lions shocked the hosts from the tip with Aaron Maxwell winning the tip and Tyrese Nfon converting a 3-pointer to instigate a 31pt quarter against one of the best teams in the country.
It wasn’t just scoring, it was the culmination of great team work and ball movement that found not just good, but better shots. Luke Mitchell and Tom Horvat pulled the strings while the hustle and rebounding from the team in general, and in particular Gaillet and Maxwell was inspirational.
There was also a good spread of scoring led by Tom Horvat on 9pts and supported by Luca Gaillet on 8pts and Luke Mitchell with 6pts on 2/2 3-pointers. Tyrese Nfon added 5pts to leave a shocked Hemel a little disorientated.
Teesside dominated the first quarter 23-31 and led the game for 14 minutes until Hakeem Sylla started to find some rhythm in the paint, and in the fourth minute of the second quarter a free throw from Veron Eze gave the champions their first lead 36-35.
Despite taking the lead, Teesside were very much in the game and producing great basketball. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half American guard Tom Horvat stole the ball and as he stumbled under defensive pressure in the key, managed to save the ball and find an epic pass from the floor to Arran Baxter who finished the incredible assist.
With less than a minute left, Horvat attacked the basket to keep Lions just 5pts down. The shine of the first half was only removed with a 3-pointer and another jumper in the fading seconds from captain Jack Burnell to stretch the Hemel lead to 10pts, 53-43 at half time.
In the third quarter, Teesside were still very much in the game for the first three minutes until Sylla and the sharp shooting New Zealander Brayden Inger began to dominate as Lions started to show fatigue and fragilities.
6’4 Lion Aaron Maxwell was using his strength and ability to great affect defending 6’8 German professional Hakeem Sylla, but the German was at times able to show his skill-sets to great affect and this had a confidence boosting affect on Hemel as well as a demoralising affect on Teesside.
The gap began to widen and in the final quarter Teesside were out of steam and struggled to control the damage as Hemel caught fire in a 28-0 period that in some ways spared their blushes.
Teesside can be proud of their efforts for three quarters and use the example of great team play and ball movement in the first half as opposed to the self-destructive erratic play of the final quarter as a springboard for the rest of the league season.
Apart from the final quarter Teesside matched their D1 opposition in almost every category. Regardless of the fourth quarter collapse, Teesside managed to finish the game with three players in double figure points and showed much potential against one of the best teams in the country.
Aaron Maxwell was excellent in containing Sylla to just 1pt more than his season average. Amongst many high performers, especially in the first three quarters, Maxwell collected 10pts, 6 rebounds 2 assists & 2 steals to earn the MVP.
The overall game MVP was Brayden Inger who finished top scorer with 26pts 9 rebounds & 57% from 3-point range.
MVP: Aaron Maxwell
Teesside: Horvat 22, Gaillet 10, Maxwell 10
Hemel: Inger 26, Sylla 22, Burnell 12, Newman 10
Teesside now turn their attention back to the league and prepare for the trip to Bristol Hurricanes on Saturday 25th November. While Lions lost their way in the Storm, they are eager to now calm the Hurricanes.