London book spot in next round of EuroCup
London Lions 83-66 Veolia Towers Hamburg (19-13, 42-30, 62-51)
(Lions: Koufos, 17; Dekker, 15; Nelson/Oni, 14 – Hamburg: Childs, 14; Woodard/McCullum, 10; Hinrichs/Philipps, 8)
London Lions picked up a vital 83-66 victory over Veolia Towers Hamburg in their 7Days EuroCup encounter at a rocking CopperBox Arena on Wednesday night.
It was a deserved victory for the Lions who end a two-game skid in the EuroCup, improving to 6-8 in Group B, which secures their spot in the next round, a monumental step for London and for British basketball.
Kosta Koufos led four London players in double figures as he shot 8/10 from the field en route to 17 points along with 11 rebounds, with Sam Dekker adding another 15.
Yoeli Childs paced Hamburg with 14 points.
A closely fought first quarter saw the hosts break clear first as Dekker scored four points to give London a 10-6 lead with four minutes of the first period gone.
Hamburg, though, fired back and scored the following five points before a three from Luke Nelson and a jumper from Aaron Best restored the Lions’ four-point cushion.
However, with both sides chasing coveted spots into the next round of the EuroCup, the action was physical and, at times, scrappy.
The Lions maintained their advantage at the end of the first quarter, as six points from Dekker helped his side gain a 19-13 advantage.
Coming out in the second quarter, Hamburg caught the Lions napping and, with just over a minute played, went on a 6-0 spurt, capped off by a triple from Anthony Polite to knot the game at 19-19.
Wanting to let London fight through adversity, coach Ryan Schmidt was strategic, saving his timeout and continuing the action.
It was the right move.
The hosts answered Hamburg’s 6-0 run with a 10-0 burst of their own, with Koufos and Miye Oni at the heart of the action, as the BBL Championship leaders took their first double-digit lead of the night.
Refusing to let the game slip away at an early stage, the German visitors hit back and narrowed the gap to 31-28 with 3:30 remaining in the half, as Hamburg played solid attacking basketball.
But as the half neared, London roared back with Oni again in the mix as his nine points led the hosts to a 42-30 cushion.
And as the third quarter started, Koufos played like a man possessed, scoring seven points in three minutes to push London’s lead to 52-39.
The visitors, who struggled from the field in the first half, could not contain the Lions’ inside presence and could not find any rhythm offensively.
As a result, London was comfortable in the third, maintaining a double-digit advantage that they kept going into the final quarter, despite a score from Jonas Wohlfarth-Botterman on the buzzer.
Back-to-back triples from Nelson to begin the final period looked to be the final nail in the coffin for Hamburg as coach Barloschky called a quick timeout in an attempt to salvage a contest that looked out of reach.
The timeout was only delaying the inevitable as the Lions refused to halt their momentum.
Sure enough, another score from Nelson midway through handed the hosts a 76-56 lead, putting the Germans away for good.
Time to celebrate, but only for a few hours as the Lions now have to adjust and refocus on the Championship, as they make the trip to Scotland to face the Caledonia Gladiators on Friday.
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