The London Lions are just one game away from British Basketball League (BBL) domination after dismissing a resistant Plymouth Raiders 100-80 in their semi-final playoff second-leg last night.
The Lions went into the game 12 points down after an uncharacteristically shaky first-leg on Tuesday, but secured their spot in the final with an eight-point victory on aggregate after a commanding second-leg performance.
A storming first quarter saw a ruthless attacking display from the Lions as they erased their first-leg points deficit in under seven minutes.
Two-time league MVP Justin Robinson excelled from the tip-off, hitting three pointers at will to rack up double figures within six minutes, whilst newcomer Chris Tawiah showed his all-round skillset with decisive moves at both ends of the court.
The Raiders refused to relinquish their advantage without a fight and grew into the game from the second quarter, forcing the Lions into errors as they began to claw back a narrow aggregate lead.
But the Lions returned from half-time with renewed vigour and steadily pulled away, led by man of the match DeAndre Liggins with 23 points, two rebounds and four assists after Robinson hobbled off the court with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
The Raiders tried to battle back in the final stages but were slowly broken down by the Lions’ constant pressure.
The score stood at 91-75 with 70 seconds left in the fourth quarter, before an exceptional three pointer from Liggins followed by a soaring dunk from Dirk Williams provided the final nails in the Raiders’ coffin.
The Lions will now play Newcastle Eagles in this weekend’s playoff final, a rematch of the dramatic BBL Cup final back in January which saw the Eagles triumph 84-77 over a Lions team weakened by injury.
Lions Head Coach Vince Macaulay said: “I am so proud of this team. Coming back from a 12-point deficit to book our ticket to the playoff finals is a testament to the hard work that every single player puts in day in and day out.
“If we can execute on the court and play to the best of our ability, we’ll be hard to beat on Sunday.”
Victory in the playoff final would cap off a sensational 2021 campaign for the Lions, who won the BBL Trophy back in March and were riding a 14-game winning streak prior to the first-leg defeat on Tuesday.
The team, who finished second in the regular season behind the Leicester Riders and then beat Cheshire Phoenix in the quarter-finals have never won the BBL playoffs before, finishing runners up in 2014-15 and 2017-18.
The BBL playoff final between the London Lions and Newcastle Eagles takes place this Sunday, 16 May at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
Featured image credit: London Lions