The second match of this weekend and the fourth BBL Trophy quarter final took place as Lloyd Gardner and his Manchester Giants took on James Vear and his London Lions. The former came in with more momentum than the latter as Manchester secured a win down in Surrey whilst the Lions lost out against this year’s BBL Cup winners in the Leicester Riders. With that momentum also means added fatigue with the Giants playing two games within 24 hours of each other.
First points of the ball game went to London and Isiah Reese as he converted the layup followed by a Lorenzo Cugini three. Dan Clark replied with a three of his own off a Tyrik Armstrong assist. Dan Clark also makes a big play early on in the game with a block to deny Dirk Williams at the rim who then grabbed the offensive rebound and converted. London slowly began to gain a sizable lead into the middle of the quarter through tough defensive play and capitalising on ball handling and stealing the ball away as a result. Tyrik Armstrong, regardless of the intensity of the defence, still found his way into the paint and converted from close range. The Magic Man also sets up his teammates as he found Will Saunders for a three to open his account for the evening. London continually found their way into the paint and midrange to convert, keeping their lead comfortably in the double digits as the visitors took the first quarter 14-28.
Captain Jack Hudson led by example to start the second quarter with some silky finishing at the rim with a reverse layup, battling through the contact of the Lions defence. With few makes this quarter, lack of rebounding and turnovers put London in the lead by as many as 18 into this quarter. Manchester found some momentum as Geno Artison stepped back for a deep two at the top of the key followed by another deep two from Jordan Whelan at the elbow. That run was halted as a Julian Washburn three took the Lions to a 21 point lead with 2 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. After the timeout, Will Saunders replied with a three of his own that was once again met by another three, this time from Lorenzo Cugini. The threes did not stop there unfortunately as Dirk Williams hit another two before the halftime buzzer, one from half-court to make it 29-54 in favour of the London Lions.
After a turnover on the opening possession from London, Manchester made their way down the court for Geno Artison to score the first points of this third quarter with a close make on second chance points. Artison made again from close range on back to back possessions. Manchester started on a more positive note as Tyrik Armstrong showed off his signature razzle dazzle to work his way into the paint with a spin-move followed by a layup. Jamell Anderson wanted in on the action as he hit a three of his own from the corner. Manchester continually looked to cut down this large London lead with back to back triples from Josh Steel and Francois Lewis. Josh Steel and Francois Lewis were not finished there as the former brushed past Will Neighbour and converted close whilst the latter converted again from beyond the arc. A strong showing for the Giants in the third quarter as they outscored the Lions and cut the deficit Further.
Francois Lewis picked up where he left off in the third quarter, converting a mid range jumper off a Jordan Whelan assist to start the Giants off in the final quarter. Josh Steel also picked up where he left off cutting to the basket to make from close range followed by a lovely euro-step by the GB International on the next offensive possession to make again from close. Manchester were slowly cutting the lead down to size, taking a page out of London’s book from earlier in the game, began to cut out wayward passes and convert fast-break points to bring the lead to 17 points with 6 minutes left in the quarter. We had a ball game on our hands with 4 minutes left as the Giants managed to claw the lead back to single digits and with points from Jamell Anderson, Francois Lewis and Tyrik Armstrong the Giants were 8 points away from their opponents. Both teams began trading baskets in a bout that saw the outfit from the capital take the game 79-90.
Francois Lewis had his highest scoring night in a Giants jersey finishing with 18 points on 75% from the field and 66% from beyond the arc. Tyrik Armstrong showed out once again as he flirted with a double double with 20 points and 8 assists.
Words – Michael Blain
Photo – All Sports Photography