London’s new signings Nick Freer, Kramer ‘Special K’ Knutson and Ben Smith have had an immediate impact in propelling the Lions to second place in the BBL after a 3 game winning streak places the Golden Boys at 7-2.
The 3 Americans had been waiting in the wings, awaiting work permit clearance before being able to officially join the Lions and so were chomping at the bit to get started on what looks to be a memorable season for London’s biggest professional basketball outfit.
Lions 94 – Birmingham Knights 69
The first BBL league game for the fully-loaded Lions saw them on the road against the struggling Birmingham Knights. Birmingham feature the BBL’s current leading scorer Brent Benson (30ppg), so were not to be taken lightly as they searched for their first win. “Birmingham will be a test for us as they have some hungry young British players alongside Benson who has shown he can really find the basket when he gets going” said Lions head coach Vince Macaulay.
However, behind the strong defensive efforts of Ben Smith, himself a 2-time All-Defense specialist from Wichita State, Benson was held to 6 points below his average, shooting a difficult 6-17 from the field. Smith added 12 points of his own on the offensive end, alongside 6 rebounds for an impressive league debut.
Kramer Knutson was quick to show he’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the glass, finishing with 12 boards, while the athletic and quick Nick Freer displayed a flawless outside shooting stroke going 4 for 4 from downtown, finishing with 15 points.
MVP for the game was Lions 6’11” Adrien ‘A-G’ Sturt who tallied an impressive 29 points and grabbed 10 boards as the Lions pulled an easy win.
Lions 86 – Cheshire Phoenix 76
The following day saw the Lions on the road again against the underrated Cheshire Phoenix at one of the most difficult places to play in the BBL.
Though the Phoenix are one of the lower placed teams in the BBL so far this season, their talent indicates they will rise as the year goes on behind the inside force of Victor Moses and backcourt play of Reggie Middleton. Moses finished with a hefty stat line of 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Phoenix, alongside Middleton’s 24 points. However it was not enough to contend with another hot shooting display from Freer, who went 4-6 from 3-point range, capped off with a thunderous dunk to finish with 20 points personal. Point guard supreme Rod Brown chipped in with 15 points, most at crucial stages of the game to either stop any potential Cheshire run or to give the Lions the cushion needed to seal the deal. Smith had another strong showing, finishing with 13 points and an impressive 13 rebounds in leading the Lions to the win.
“It was a real team effort out there today. Rod was great for us as we expect, but Ben’s defense and Nick’s hot shooting gave us the boost we needed to get over the hump against a determined Cheshire team who wouldn’t stay down” said Macaulay.
MVP for the game was Nick Freer who finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.
Lions 78- Sheffield Sharks 55
Lions returned home to the Lions Den, aka ‘The Box That Rocks’ to face the league leading Sheffield Sharks. The full squad had the benefit of a full week of practise together and it certainly showed on the defensive end as they clamped down on the confused Sharks.
The normally fluid Sharks attack was cut off at the pass each time they tried to go into the post with Mike Tuck. The defensive rotations and hard work of Knutson anchored a stellar defensive display for the Lions who limited their guests to just 55 points on just 26% shooting. Offensively it was Rod Brown (18 points), Knutson (16 points) and captain Mike Martin (10 points) who led the way in pulling off a dominant win that is sure to send message to the rest of the league.
MVP for the game was Kramer ‘Special K’ Knutson who finished with 16 points and a dominant 13 rebounds.
Lions are now at 7-2 with the next game against Surrey United with a chance to go top of the league with a home win.