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BBL: London Lions vs Manchester Giants
Natimi Black-Heaven reports from London's home opener as the British Basketball season gets under way

Photo: Andy Sidders
The new season tipped off in London as the Lions welcomed the visiting Manchester Giants to their new home at the ex-Olympic venue, the Copper Box. The crowd certainly didn't disappoint the cameras began rolling – with a fresh TV deal with British Eurosport in place – as well as having a solid number of members sign up to the new BBL League Pass.

The game started with the Giants taking the early lead through a confident Rob Marsden, but the fun was short-lived. Strong defence capitalised, with converted fast break points and offensive rebounds moving London into the lead with four minutes left in the first. It was clear to see from the outset that the game was still incredibly competitive, both teams seeking to begin the season on a positive. At the end of the first quarter the score read 18-15 in favour of the home team.

During the opening stages of the second, it was a back and forth contest, both teams shooting lights out. Lions guard Rod Brown was bringing out oohs and aahs from the crowd as he began putting on a clinic in crossovers. The offensive rebounds story was still the main point of focus as the Giants just couldn't understand the fundamental process of blocking out. London found support in forward Joe "I came to win" Ikhinmwin, as he led the lions half way through the second quarter with 12 points. Before too long, London had a 16 point lead with two minutes left in the second. Manchester looked overwhelmed, their defensive intensity non-existent whereas London were able pour in 19 points during the second. At the end of the half the Lions were on top of the Giants 47-31.

Mr "I came to win" and the rest of the Lions started off the third quarter strong as they continued to rain it down on the Giants, who were unable to respond with any kind of fire power themselves. Three minutes into the half, however, the Giants began to find their spirit as they came up with a couple of big plays but it wasn't enough to put authority on the game. Ikhinmwin was subbed out of the third quarter to a raucous ovation from the crowd who recognised his hard work on both the offensive and defensive side of the court. Manchester broke into the Lions' defence and gave London a little of their own medicine, coming up with offensive rebounds and converting on their chances. It was Marsden who led the Giants' charge with 13 points as the quarter ended 61-50.

The Giants upped the intensity in the last period as they brought the score back to single digits. Marsden proved to be unstoppable – the Lions incapable of guarding the 6ft 7 forward. Just as the Lions pulled away in second quarter, Manchester seemed to have their answer in the forth as the game suddenly turned into a 5 point contest with seven minutes left. Giants point guard Stefan Gill changed the status of the game as London failed to stop him driving to the hole time after time.

However, the crowd became the sixth man as London found themselves on the end of a Manchester run. A fast break conversion followed by a Lions alley-oop saw the Lions back in control. The game was still far from over however, a timeout taken by the Lions with two minutes left in the game and the score 75-70 in their favor. With just over a minute left, Marsden found himself under the basket with a seemingly wide open lay-up, but he missed the shot after a controversial non-call by the ref left the Giants with nothing to show for their great offensive execution. London were able to hold on to their lead in the final seconds, winning their opening game 81-75. Joe Ikhinmwin was the man for London as he secured a double double with 22 points and 14 rebounds.


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