Lions Beat Raptors in Incredible Turnaround
By Tom Jameson
Monday 07 Nov 2011 15:24:00
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tadea Middlesbrough Lions came back from the dead to clinch an incredible victory with just 2 seconds remaining on the clock. It was a victory described by coach James Thomson as the best he has ever been involved in and “poetry in motion.” Hopefully this will set the Lions roaring forward.


Unable to score and down 10-0 in first five minutes, down 16-4 by the seventh minute and at the end of the quarter down 24-10. Down 42-28 at half time and if this was a boxing match, Lions would have been awarded a technical knockout.


With just over a minute left Lions were down 8pts when the most incredible turnaround would be instigated by Papis Samb. The Italian scored and then stole the in bound pass to score again, closing the gap to 4pts and with just 43 seconds remaining Raptors star; Stephen Gayle drove to the basket, only to be blocked by Lions American mountain; Mike Konanec who passed out to Patrick O’Connor who travelled the length of the court to score a crucial lay up through a crowd of Raptors.


Gayle again brought up the ball and tried to run the clock but with 12 seconds left turned the ball over following strong pressure from the Middlesbrough side. The ball was collected by Papis Samb who with 6 seconds and counting drove to the basket only to slip and almost lose the ball. The Italian somehow managed to push the ball through the legs of one Raptor and fumble its way into the hands of Dan Armory who, with just 2 seconds remaining, fired the biggest and most important 3-point shot of his career, a shot that would sail into the basket and signal an eruption of celebrations from the Lions players, coach and fans.


It was an exhilarating experience and a display of the highest calibre of character as the Lions orchestrated a comeback when it seemed highly unlikely if not impossible.


 Rossendale Raptors 77-78 tadea Middlesbrough Lions


The third quarter was actually the turning point as the tadea Lions Coach; James Thomson formulated his side’s tactics. The Middlesbrough Coach called for his troops to stand up and be counted. The time was now and the third period would be critical to appease the previous two games and resurrect an opportunity to win this game. The result was startling as Lions produced a strong press to control and slowly pick away at the hosts lead. In the fourth minute, the lead was down to 7pts thanks to a 2pt shot from O’Connor cushioned either side by two big blocks from Konanec. The big American also dominating the rebounds as Lions began to unnerve Rossendale for the first time in the game.


Gayle though was not to be tamed, as he broke the rut with a huge 3-pointer to take the scores to 47-37. The last three minutes of the third period saw Lions increase the pressure as Tom Robinson produced the goods at both ends of the court. Robinson was electric as he hit 9pts and added 8pts in the final period including a late dunk. 


tadea Lions won the third quarter 16-29.


The final minute of the fourth quarter could not have been written any better as an ecstatic Coach James Thomson re-collected:


“It’s the best win I have ever been involved in. The players made me look good as a coach, we were disciplined and modified our tactics well to cause them problems in the second half. From the team stuttering in the first quarter to big performances from Tom, Mike, Patrick and for me our MVP Papis in the second half. Dan and Ben gave us good control which was an area we identified as a weakness in recent games and when Dan hit the 3-pointer I just exploded. I could not have been happier, it was like poetry in motion!”


The win sent Lions into joint second place in the National League Division 4 table and may be the defining moment of their season after two recent losses, they feel they should have won. Ahead of this game, Coach Thomson acknowledged the high level of opposition was just what was required to bring the best of his team; adding:


 “We entered the game with an edge of fear and this was healthy as we had to work hard. I said to the guys after the game to remember how good it felt and remember what it takes to make it happen. Hopefully we will continue with this ethos for the rest of the season.”


tadea Middlesbrough Lions American Konanec was a rock on defence as he collected 17 rebounds and 4 blocks. O’Connor was yet again impressive despite the size and strength of the opposition, adding 17pts and Samb hit 15pts, but more importantly made big steals and big baskets at the critical stage of the game. The Italian ran his socks off in this game, particularly toward the end and was the catalyst in the comeback to earn the MVP along with one of the other two big performers in Raptors Stephen Gayle and Lions Tom Robinson.


Robinson, who currently leads the league in scoring, added a whopping 35pts and 10 rebounds for yet another double-double to share the MVP accolade.


 If Raptors had just two more points to win the game, Stephen Gayle would have been the runaway MVP as he produced 26pts, 10 steals and 7 assists in a superb display. The former BBL star would rue a few slip ups in the final minutes though and will be looking for more support from his team mates as the next top scorer was Mark Cowell on just 8pts. 6’8” Romanian; Ionut Slabu did well as he collected 10 rebounds, 6pts & 2 blocks.


Top Scorers


Raptors: Gayle 36, Cowell 8, Lindsay 6, Slabu 6


tadea Lions: Robinson 35, O’Connor 17, Samb 15


tadea Middlesbrough Lions will be aiming to consolidate their position in the top three this Saturday when they travel to Bradford Dragons in what will be another tough encounter.

Photo Dan Armory making winning shot - by Steve Brown



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