Wylie Wows In Lions Win
Teesside Lions 86-55 Calderdale Explorers
Lions rounded off 2021 with a Christmas cheer as they produced their best performance of the season in front of their home fans at Eston Arena, remaining unbeaten league leaders.
31 assists, providing two thirds of the Lions points is an incredible stat-line and an indication of how well the team played together. Teesside also showed their depth with 49pts coming from the bench; Calderdale in comparison had 13.
The game began with Gregor Gray hitting a 3-pointer for Lions but a quick response from Allie Fullah and three free throws from Loick Pouale gave the visitors a 2pt lead.
This lead however would last only 20 seconds as Ross Wilson regained the advantage in the fourth minute through a pump-fake, drive and finish. When Gray hit the next 3-pointer there was a sense of control and confidence beginning to show for Teesside. Alex Parr rounded off a good start for Lions with a steal and lay-up.
Pouale was doing his best for the Explorers and marked an impressive quarter with five converted free throws and a 3-pointer in the ninth minute, a late spark that was quickly extinguished with two 3-pointers from Tom Wylie to give the home team a 21-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Calderdale Coach Jim Fry needed more from his players. If Pouale’s points were not considered in the first quarter the visitors would have hit just 3pts. Coach Fry’s call was answered in the second period four players marked the scoresheet and the team almost doubled their score.
Lions though were still in command as Siman Stewart worked his magic inside the key, taking it in turns with Theo Turner, the latter slamming home in the seventh minute following nice ball movement and a great assist by Ross Wilson. The star of the quarter however was 19 year old Tom Wylie who hit an incredible five 3’s to maintain a comfortable cushion of 14pts heading into half time, 46-32.
The Lions were in fine fettle and shooting well with Wylie shooting 61.5% and Gray connecting 4/5 from the perimeter to record an impressive 80%. A 9-0 run to start the third quarter gave Calderdale another headache as they found themselves 23pts down. While frustrated, the team did not give up and credit to the players they battled on as Rob Donaldson and Aaron Kay produced the goods and inspired a belief that the visitors could rescue something from the game. Calderdale controlled six minutes of the third period as they outscored the hosts 12-3. The strong start and finish to the quarter saving Lions blushes as they also won this period 20-14, a reminder however that focus must be maintained.
The focus was not an issue for Tom Wylie as he broke the visitors run in the sixth minute with his eighth 3 of the game to record a career high.
In the fourth quarter Tom Wylie would be forced to leave the game in the first minute of play when he turned his ankle, a relief for Coach Fry as the young star left the court as the leading scorer.
Despite the disruption to Coach Steutel’s rotation, it was business as usual for the Lions as they finished the game with their best quarter limiting the visitors to just 9pts whilst hitting 20pts as Gray hit another two 3’s and Matt Hughes went off for 10pts including two emphatic dunks to the excitement of the fans.
The 31-point victory was Lions best performance of the season; an early Christmas gift from Coach Steutel and the team to provide some joy ahead of the looming fear of further social restrictions that may affect basketball in the New Year.
In amongst a host of impressive players (Devitt 8 assists, Ross Wilson 10 reb, Stewart 3 blocks) Lions had two contenders for MVP with Gregor Gray topping the efficiency rating with 24, adding 14pts, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks with 80% from 3-pointers.
Those impressive stats however were surpassed by Tom Wylie as he collected his second consecutive MVP with eight 3’s on 61.5% shooting, finishing the game as top scorer on 26pts in just 18mins of play.
Lions: Wylie 26, Hughes 16, Gray 14, Turner 10
Explorers: Kay 14, Pouale 14, Donaldson 13
Lions are due to play on the 9th January in the second of three derby games against local rivals Tees Valley Mohawks, but this fixture could be subject to Covid restrictions and fans are asked to keep updated via the Lions social media channels.
Spectators are requested to wear face masks in and around the venue, in accordance with new Government guidance.
Tickets are on sale now via www.TeessideLions.com