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London Lions late surge secure victory against Newcastle Eagles 85-88

2N1C8X1 Newcastle upon Tyne, England, 3 February 2023. Newcastle Eagles playing against B. Braun Sheffield Sharks in a BBL Championship match at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne. Credit: Colin Edwards

The London Lions made a late comeback to extend their run of consecutive wins to 18 as they advance to 25-2 behind an inspiring fourth quarter performance by Sam Dekker.

The Newcastle Eagles looked the better team and overcame their third quarter troubles but lost starter Javion Hamlet and Darius Defoe as they fouled out with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter.

London Lions started off on a 9-2 run, showcasing why they are the current BBL league leaders and soon to be possible BBL regular season champions. The Newcastle Eagles on the other hand, are desperate for a playoff push and responded to the league leaders’ early run.

Lions’ early full court press caused many poor offensive possessions for the hosts, but responding with their own press the Eagles pieced together a comeback helped inspired by Justin Gordon’s energy enticing put-back dunk.

Hamlet said post match: “We knew what they were gonna do. We’ve been scouting them out all week.

“We kept moving the ball and it was working for us.”

Aaron Best and Jordan Taylor led the way for the visitors bagging 18 of the teams 31, while the hosts very own Jermel Kennedy and Hamlet combined for 20 of the Eagles’ 27 first quarter points

Defoe, making his 570th BBL appearance, took the early deficit personal and scored the first eight Eagle points of the second quarter including giving the Tyne and Wear side their first lead of the game

Throughout the first half, Marc Steutel’s team did well to contain Lion threats Dekker and Tomislav Zubčič despite totaling 19 of the Lions 47 first half points. Hasan French and Gordon cleaned of the boards on both ends preventing the Lions to capitalize on second chance points.

The Eagles went into half time with a 50-47 lead on the back of Hamlet’s 20 points, but worries about the third quarter woes were still to come.

After going on an early 7-3 run, it looked like the visitor’s were taking full advantage of the third quarter troubles on the Eagles with a few 50/50 calls going the Lion’s way

The Eagles however responded with their own run scoring 10 straight during a 17-3 run that increased the hosts lead to a game high 13.

Ryan Schmidt’s team fought back to end the quarter on their own 8-0 run, but despite their efforts their deficit was increased by two as Newcastle went into the final quarter of play up 70-65.

The Lion’s continue the fourth quarter the way the started the game, in a full court switch everything defense.

The Eagles were not getting official friendly calls leading to a controversial kick-out foul that saw Hamlet pick up his 5th with 5:53 left. Then, less than 20 seconds later, Defoe fouled out with 5:36 left. Hamlet and Defoe scored 43 of the Eagles 85 Points.

The visitors stayed true to their style and continue to show the BBL why they are the best team in the league, extending their run of form to 18 straight BBL victories.

London will host the Eagles on Friday after losing against the Sheffield Sharks which prevented them from winning a 19th straight BBL fixture.

Newcastle Eagles only have three home games left in their final 10 BBL games.

Hamlet said: “We got the best fans in the BBL. It’s great, we feed off that energy. They’ve been here supporting us through the ups and through the downs. We really appreciate them.”

Despite losing three of the last four matches, all of which were against the top three teams in the BBL, the Eagles have showed that they can compete with anyone.

He added: “Our record doesn’t show it but I feel like we’re the best in the league. We had a lot of adversity this year and a lot of changes. We’re trying to jell with each other.”

Hamlet, despite being very happy for Tosan Evbuomwan after winning their opening game of March Madness, has Alabama winning it all in Houston on April 3.

The Tyne and Wear side will look to find a spark against the Lions next Friday in London following their second straight nail-biting loss against Manchester Giants.