Lions Lose To Mohawks – Stage Set For Unmissable Decider
Tees Valley Mohawks 70-65 Teesside Lions
The stage is set for an almighty third meeting in February after Mohawks won the second derby in a thrilling overtime result which could have gone either way.
The game began very much in favour of the home side as Mohawks’ Jake Butler scored the first 4pts to instigate a 16-2 run. Mohawks dictated the flow of the game with an assertive approach that Lions struggled to counter.
Some aggressive play from the Mohawks resulted in free throw opportunities for Lions, of which they missed their first six attempts. Following the first basket by Theo Turner in the second minute, Lions failed to score in open play until the eighth minute when Alex Parr converted a finish through the crowd. Mohawks continued with their intensity to dominate early proceedings as Chris Jones, Jack Jopson and Butler combined to deliver 22-8 scoreline and dream start.
The Lions’ wound was patched somewhat in the second quarter as Coach Steutel influenced a more stable and productive response. Offence flowed a little better with Jack Beresford and Carl Alexander contributing good off-ball movement leading to simple finishes. A 3-pointer from Alexander in the sixth minute reduced the Mohawks lead to 7pts. Ryan Harris stepped up to maintain the Mohawks cushion with a 3 of his own and a few traded baskets in the last minute would ensure a 7pt lead for the hosts was secured at the half time buzzer, the score being 31-24.
Teesside needed a strong third quarter and after winning the second period 16-9, there was a belief that the poor start could be overturned. If one player embodied this belief it was Gregor Gray as he came alive in the third hitting 12pts including two 3’s as the fan favourite along with support from Alexander and Turner managed to take the lead by 2pts, 42-44.
In addition to the scorers, Lions were enjoying some great play from Siman Stewart who was a stabilising influence on offence and a commanding presence on defence. Stewart was also linking well with Turner who was at times a forcefield on defence as the Mohawks struggled to navigate his 7-foot frame and rebounding abilities.
The final quarter was another swing in momentum as Mohawks turned up the heat with Acho Anyigbo playing a pivotal role as the captain led from the front and hit 6 of his 8pts in this period. Added to this were some incredibly difficult shots converted by Chris Jones that would have many scratching their heads and wondering how he managed to do that. The type of shots that can give a team a belief that it is their day.
A combination of determination, ability, and a little good fortune had helped Mohawks re-take the lead, and with two minutes remaining in the game, Lions were down by 6pts.
Teesside were down 16-2 at the start of the game, down 22-8 in the first quarter and down three starting players (Tommy Devitt & Ross Wilson – covid, and Ross Wilson – injured) from the offset but the passion of Coach Steutel and depth of the team was evident from the response that yet again brought the game back and almost clinched victory with seconds remaining in regulation time.
As Mohawks committed fouls to disrupt Lions, Wylie (1/2), Turner (2/2) & Stewart (1/2) chipped away at the score from the free throw line and with the lead narrowed to just 4pts, there were incredible scenes as Gregor Gray hit a huge 3-pointer to reduce the lead to just 1pt, 59-58. With less than 3 seconds remaining Lions had the ball with Tom Wylie and fouled by Chris Jones to send Wylie to the line with an opportunity to tie and potentially take the lead and with just three seconds left, possibly the victory.
For a 19 year old Tom Wylie, this was a huge amount of pressure on young shoulders, but as cool as a cucumber, the young star sunk the first attempt to crucially tie the game. The second one missed and the game went into overtime.
With a large portion of Lions fans in attendance there was a good atmosphere and additional treat in store for everyone as five minutes of OT began.
Both teams traded baskets, Mohawks achieving the psychological boost of hitting the first via two free throws from Jai Naylor. A foul committed by Stewart that would see him foul-out which was a big blow for Teesside.
More good work from Jones gave the hosts a 3pt lead, but in the third minute Gray once again stepped up with a big 3 to tie the game. Jones again found the target shortly after and then it was Turner at the line for Lions. Under pressure the big man converted both shots to tie the game once again 65-65. With seconds running down and the game looking like heading into a second OT, Butler broke free from his man to receive the pass and with the shot-clock almost expiring, launch from way behind the 3-point line to the elation of the home team as the shot connected and slipped into the net. Lions had to foul Butler as the game neared its conclusion and the talented youngster stepped onto the line to sink both free throws and win the game by 5pts.
Mohawks: Jones 25, Butler 13,
Lions: Gray 21, Turner 17
Teesside will now lick their wounds and prepare for the next game against second placed Sheffield Elite at Eston on Sunday 16th January in what will be another top class event with the visit of Coach Pete Scantlebury and his talented team led by one of the league’s best players in Mahamud Ibrahim.
Spectators are requested to wear face masks in and around the venue, in accordance with new Government guidance.
The big date for the diary is Sunday 6th February when Teesside welcome Mohawks to Eston for what could be a title deciding game. Tickets are on sale now via www.TeessideLions.com