London Lions 84-89 Turk Telecom Ankara (19-26, 19-18, 24-26, 22-19)
(Lions – Dekker 25, Oni 21, Zubcic 14; Ankara – Bouteille 21, Jones 16, Eric 13)
In tonight’s 7DAYS EuroCup action, the London Lions welcomed Turk Telecom Ankara to the Copper Box for their last home game of the group stages, fighting valiantly and just coming up short 84-89.
Axel Bouteille led Turk Telecom with 21 points and seven rebounds, followed by Tyrique Jones with 16 points and nine rebounds, in a game that was won on the boards, with the visitors having 48 and the hosts just 30.
Sam Dekker and Miye Oni put in stellar performances for the Lions with 25 and 21 points respectively, but the hosts couldn’t secure the W.
The game started with London pressing on defence and rushing to a quick 7-4 lead.
However, Ankara quickly realised how to break the press and with fast ball movement they managed to go on a 6-0 run and lead 10-7.
Despite the Turkish side managing to break the press on several occasions, the Lions continued pressing, which allowed their opponents to get a double-digit lead (12-22), when Nathan Sestina was found wide open in the corner and drained the triple.
The visitors continued their offensive masterclass and with beautiful ball movement managed to find Michael Eric under the basket who dunked it with authority (16-26).
With just a few seconds left in the quarter, Turk Telecom’s defence fell apart completely and allowed Nelson to run up to the 6.75m line and nail the buzzer beater three, closing out the first period 19-26.
The Lions started the second quarter on top – just like they did in the first – and reduced the deficit to just two points (26-28) after two-and-a-half minutes, when Dekker went coast to coast and finished with a finger roll.
The American forward was feeling himself and a minute later he laid the ball in with a beautiful spin move (32-36).
The British side continued to stay close, through their excellent hustle.
Tomislav Zubcic managed to keep the ball inbound by launching himself at the sideline, Jordan Taylor ran the floor and dished it off to Oni for the easy two, to make it a one possession game once more (34-36).
That forced coach Can into a timeout and when Ankara came out of the timeout, they broke the London defence apart and found Sestina under the basket for the layup (34-38).
A massive putback one-handed jam by Erkan Yilmaz extended the visitors’ lead once more (35-40), before Luke Nelson’s third triple of the night brought the gap back down to four (38-42).
The second half started with two consecutive threes by Zubcic from the same spot in the corner, that made it a one possession game (44-46).
Just a couple of minutes later, the hosts managed to get their noses in front for the first time since the opening quarter (49-48), when Oni drained yet another shot from downtown.
The former NBAer then managed to score from beyond the arc once again (52-50), giving his team the lead after Ankara had regained the advantage.
The Turkish side then went ahead again (52-53) when Bouteille threw up the pass for Jones for the alley-oop slam, to serve up the top highlight of the game.
Another three for the Lions, this time from Dekker, saw them increase their lead further to 55-53.
Just when it looked like the momentum was firmly on the side of the hosts, Turk Telecom went on an incredible 14-0 run and turned the game on its head.
That run gave the visitors a double-digit lead once again (56-67), after Bouteille crossed Josh Sharma and finished with a layup.
The third period ended in a similar way to the first, with Jerian Grant connecting from behind the arc with just a few seconds left to play.
The Ankara defence however had another defensive breakdown, which allowed Oni to stroll up and hit a buzzer beater three, to close out the third 62-70.
A triple by Bouteille to start the final 10 minutes gave the Turks a double-digit lead once more (62-73).
With just over five minutes left to play, a quick 5-0 run by Dekker – with two free throws and a triple – saw the Lions close the deficit to five (71-76), turning the game into a thriller.
Oni then hit his fifth three of the game, taking him to 19 points and his team within touching distance of their opponents (74-79).
The 25-year-old then went straight at his defender on the next possession and scored a mid-range jumper, to make it a one possession game (76-79), forcing Ankara into a timeout.
As the game entered into crunch time, Dekker managed to make it just a two-point game (79-81), when he hit another three.
The Lions however were unable to complete the comeback and Jones sealed the win for his team with just over a minute to play when he blocked Oni’s three-point shot, ran the floor and dunked the ball to produce another spectacular highlight.
To add salt to London’s wounds, top scorer Dekker went off injured on the last play when he landed on the defender’s foot when pulling up for three and rolled his ankle.
With this loss, the Lions drop to a record of 7-10, while Turk Telecom move up to 12-5 and secure home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Lions’ final EuroCup group stage game will be next Tuesday (March 28) at 7:30pm against Paris in France, where they hope to finish the regular season with a win, before embarking on their first European playoff experience.
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