MK Lions will take a narrow six-point advantage into the second leg of the BBL Trophy semi-finals after defeating the UCP Marjon Plymouth Raiders 87-81 in a fiery game.
The Lions have now won three of their last four games, while the Raiders have seen a three-game winning streak ended. The Raiders, who won the Trophy in 2007, can take heart from the fact that they beat the Lions 92-76 on their home floor in the league encounter between the teams in November.
Demarius Bolds led all scorers with 31 points, including 10/10 free-throws, while Howard Crawford had 12 points and 9 rebounds. Jeremy Bell led the Raiders with 25 points.
The Raiders took a quick 2-7 lead behind 5 straight points from James Jones, with a three-pointer capping the run, and steadily grew that lead to 7-15 after six minutes with Jeremy Bell adding 6 points. But the Lions stormed the final two minutes of the opening period as they held their visitors scoreless and scored 8 quick points of their own to tie it up at 19, with Stefan Gill scoring the last 5 in that spell.
The Lions carried that momentum into the second stanza by scoring the first 5 points and they led through the next five minutes before stalling midway through the period. The Raiders put together a rapid 14-3 burst in the space of just two minutes sparked by consecutive baskets from Lehmon Colbert to lead 32-39. But, as in the first quarter, the Lions recovered before the buzzer by holding their visitors scoreless for the next two minutes, in stark contrast to the previous two, while scoring 8 points of their own with 4 for Daniel Northern. They carried a 46-43 lead into the half as Adrien Sturt made a three-pointer on the buzzer.
After the break the Lions stretched their lead, reaching double-digits in the third quarter as they used a 12-2 surge to break a 50-50 tie with Bolds scoring 6 points. An exchange between Northern and Anthony Rowe saw the former ejected during that run. By the end of the third, Bolds led the Lions on almost every stat: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as his team led 65-57.
The Lions’ margin was rarely threatened in a tumultuous fourth quarter. They initially extended the lead at 74-60, its highest in the game, on a Bolds three-pointer before the Raiders chipped away at them to set up an exciting second leg. From 78-66 with four minutes to play the Raiders scored the next 5 points, and they had it down to 80-74 as Bell made an ‘and one’ play. Anthony Martin’s score for the Raiders on the buzzer means that the Lions’ lead is six points going into the second leg.