National Basketball in association with Game Time & Tees Valley Leisure
Middlesbrough Lions got their first win on the National Basketball scene in a blazing fashion with an awe inspiring first half performance which reduced the American visitors to at times bystanders. The impressive Lions show produced a 20pt lead at half time, although the Americans composed themselves in the second half to bring the game to within 1pt mid way through the final quarter to provide a thrilling climax.
The big game began as Lions Rob Bryson and Cavaliers Aaron Lee leaped for the jump ball, Lee just outreaching Bryson, but Menwith failed to capitalise. Ryon Dixon then opened the flood gates with a big 3 to instigate a 14-4 run for Lions. Damian Warriner and Ben Robinson both in on the early action with Robinson delivering a good show from the free throw line, 3 of 4 attempts. For the Cavaliers Herb Keating and Myron Mitchell responded with physical drives to the basket but a 4min drought would leave them struggling.
In the seventh minute Cavaliers broke the Lions run with a nice 3 pointer from Mitchell who found space at the top of the key. The impressive athleticism of Aaron Lee was also proving problematic for Lions as the chiselled forward powered through the Middlesbrough defence. In the eighth minute Lee would go to the line to convert 1of2 free throws to take the scores to 18-8. Damian Warriner made 2 baskets in the last minute to maintain a 10pt lead for Lions, 22-12.
In the second quarter Lions hit the first basket through Daniel Cooper, but would fail to hit the target for the following 3mins. Smothering defence kept the Lions tamed while the visitors plucked away at the Middlesbrough lead. The highly rated Dave Macklin was effective while Tyrone Houston and Michael McCreary found the net. With the scores at 24-18, James Burton went to the line after being fouled in his own half. The aggressive man to man defence leading Menwith Hill into foul trouble. Burton missed the 1st and hit the 2nd. Lions then picked up the pace as Warriner was fouled on a drive for the And 1 play, although he would miss the bonus free throw. The sharp shooting Ryon Dixon then hit a brace of 3 pointers to leave the Cavaliers coach; Charlotte Evans scratching her head. The ever present Lee was a constant threat for Menwith Hill, but Lions maintained the offensive pressure to run out deserved leaders at the half, 44-24.
A good pep talk from Coach Evans revitalised the shocked Americans and they came out strong in the third quarter, outscoring Lions 10-2 in the first 6mins. Houston was beginning to find his perimeter shot while Juan Cervantes was looking good under the hoop. Lions struggled in this quarter and would make only 2 baskets from open play via Robinson and Dixon in a period which Lions were outscored 7-16. Cervantes made two nice shots late in the third followed by Macklin converting 2 free throws to secure a good quarter for the visitors. Lions maintained the lead however, 51-40.
Lions Coach Sid Nicholls wanted to quell the shift in momentum and instructed his troops to switch to a 1-3-1 defence which worked well as Menwith scored only 1 basket in open play in the first 4mins. Warriner scored a nice reverse lay up for Lions on the counter attack and in the third minute Dixon was fouled shooting a 3 pointer which led to 3 free throws, converting 2of 3. The big Earl Jones forced his way to the basket in reply for Cavaliers and when Mitchell followed up with a lay up the scoreboard indicated a good come back for the visitors who were now within 8pts, 47-55. In the next two plays for Lions Ben Robinson would be fouled attacking the basket, but the power forward would convert only 1of4 attempts. The Cavaliers then broke to the running Lee who sailed to the basket, now down by 7. Jones then rose above Robinson to hit a close shot off the glass and claim the foul to reduce the Lions lead to 4pts, 51-55 ensuring a nail biting finale for the spectators. Jones would miss to the bonus, but still the Cavalier attacked providing a frantic period for the home coaching staff. After a Cooper free throw for Lions, Menwith Hill hit 5pts including a 3 from the impressive Lee to come within 1pt. In 7mins, Lions had scored only 9pts and missed free throws were proving costly, 12of26 in this quarter alone. Lions coaches, Nicholls and Thomson discussed options and called a time out. The introduction of James Burton provided an immediate response as the guard buried a 3 pointer and then converted 2 free throws after being fouled. Burton was excellent in the final 3mins adding 8pts to revitalise the Lions, allowing Robinson, Cooper and Warriner to close affairs and extend the lead to 12pts with a 7-0 run, 72-60.
Lions had two outstanding players in Damian Warriner and Ben Robinson with Ben Robinson earning the MVP award for his 15pts, 12 rebounds & 4 blocked shots. Aaron Lee was the player of the game for Menwith Hill with 14pts, 10 rebounds, 3 steals & 2 blocked shots.
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