Game round-up with London Lions’ Kevin Ware (no. 5)

1st November 2020 BBL CUP MACH

London Lions vs Newcastle Eagles:

The London Lions faced a tough loss this Sunday afternoon, falling to the Newcastle Eagles in the BBL cup game 79-89 at the Copperbox Arena.

For players and viewers, playing under such strict conditions adds a layer of clarity to the game. Behind closed doors, the ring of the Pyrex being battered and players traversing the court inevitably become enhanced. Nonetheless, for Ware, this clarity becomes an opportunity to be more mentally prepared and acute. In natural fashion, he chimes that “the best way to stay motivated is simply to win”.

It was clear at the first quarter that it was going to be a slow start. Defense from both teams seemed tentative, allowing Newcastle’s front court comprising of Edwards (no. 6) and Fletcher (no. 44) to run wild on transition. The first four minutes of the game also saw Newcastle’s Evan Maxwell (no. 2) imposing his 6’10 presence, blocking Ware’s layup attempt and attacking Kervin Bristol (no. 13) relentlessly. Ware credits his team for being able to adjust to Newcastle’s frontcourt and containing Edwards and Fletcher eventually: “We adjusted and limited them from scoring easy transition buckets.

The Lions’ Deandre Liggins’ (no. 34) strong drives also proved to be effective against the relatively undersized defenders. A hesitation move followed by a lowered shoulder by Liggins gave the Lions a much-needed three by Ware in the corner with 4 minutes to go in the first. Coach Macaulay added more gunpowder to the frontcourt by inserting veteran Justin Robinson (no.10) into the game, whose precise positioning behind the arc forced the Eagles to open up their defense. To this, Ware opines “we need to be way more aggressive at the start. We tend to take a jab and backpedal, instead from using our athleticism and size from the jump”.

Patterns started to emerge in the second quarter, as the Lions pounced on the right baseline that was consistently left open. Liggins (no.34) capitalized on a three in the corner on a sweet drive and cut from a teammate. The Robinson-Williams (no.11) combination came into play as Williams hit another baseline three from the same spot, followed by a layup off the assist from Robinson. With these momentum changes, Ware opines that the team needs to get better at recognizing the mismatches. “We need to stop being too stuck on running the plays, but to recognize the opportunities and take them as they come”.

Nonetheless, the quarter is perhaps best defined by the plays of both Newcastle’s Maxwell and Lions’ Joe Ikhinmwin (no.7). Switching out on a high pick and roll, Ikhinmwin stayed ten toes on Newcastle’s primary ball handler Edwards to force up a bad shot with the shot clock winding down. While this could have been a defensive turning point for the Lions, Maxwell crashed the scene by catching Ikhinmwin off-guard with a 2 handed dunk that almost brought the rim down. The score was then 34-32 in favor of the Lions with 54 seconds to go in the second.

The Lions showcased some flair in their sets in the second half, with Robinson executing some pinpoint passes. However, credit has to be given to the other players of Newcastle who stepped up during the next half. Justin Gordon (no.24) started to exploit the defense by crashing the boards and finding the bottom of the net with contested layups, finishing the game with a triple double and an impressive 17 rebounds. His clutch 3 with 1.4 seconds left also sent the game into overtime. Louis Sayers (no.12) started getting hot and countered the Lions’ every big play with his own triples, eventually icing the game in overtime. Ware conceded that the “rebounding of Gordon killed us”, and Newcastle’s strong supporting cast stole the game eventually.

While this was a tough loss for the Lions, Ware is optimistic about exiting from the limbo with the start of the season. “We got a quick turnaround, 3 days practice and we’ve got to win Sheffield next; it’s a personal goal and to do so at all costs. We are also way more mentally ready after today’s loss”. Despite the loss, his intensity and positive outlook shows his readiness for the season ahead. Guess the same can be said for Kevin and his opponents moving forward: be Ware.

Author: Isaac Low


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