London Lions Triumph in New Matchroom Tournament, Claim 25k Prize

London Lions took home the inaugural Betway All-Stars Championship title with the accompanying 25,000 winning prize at The O2 Arena, on Sunday.

The new fast-paced format – introduced by Matchroom Sport – saw eight BBL sides battle it out over five hours in shortened 12-minute games in a bid for glory in North Greenwich.

Justin Robinson starred for the Lions to pick up MVP honours, though European recruit Momcilo Latinovic impressed throughout the afternoon, Paul Guede locked in on defence and new American forward Brandon Peel produced a pivotal hot stretch in the final.

The Lions came up against Newcastle Eagles in the deciding showdown and despite falling 5-14 behind to back-to-back six-pointers from Jaysean Paige, they rallied with 10 points in their own powerplay.

Eagles edged back in front to lead 19-20 before Peel stepped up with six points in a row in a decisive 7-0 spell with a late five-pointer from Paige proving in vein.

Earlier, the Lions defeated Glasgow Rocks and Bristol Flyers to advance to the last four, where they beat Andreas Kapoulas’ Bristol side once again, while Newcastle had a tougher route.

An opening defeat against the Flyers put the North-East side on the back-foot and they survived with a thrilling double-overtime victory over Glasgow Rocks before seeing off Sheffield Sharks.

More drama followed in the last four clash with Leicester Riders with a late game-winner from Terry Martin sealing the win.

Results:
Leicester Riders 31-18 Surrey Scorchers; Newcastle Eagles 22-41 Bristol Flyers
Glasgow Rocks 10-27 London Lions; Sheffield Sharks 37-35 Worcester Wolves
Bristol Flyers 6-24 London Lions; Leicester Riders 21-15 Sheffield Sharks
Surrey Scorchers 20-33 Worcester Wolves; Newcastle Eagles 45-41 Glasgow Rocks (2OT)
Bristol Flyers 36-21 Worcester Wolves; Sheffield Sharks 33-43 Newcastle Eagles

Semi-finals: Eagles 27-26 Riders; Flyers 16-18 Lions
Final: Lions 26-25 Eagles


What caught the eye:

  • Mackey McKnight FOR THE WIN. 3? 5? 10? Whatever it’s worth, that’s always going to send everyone wild – what a way to win the game with the five-point heave from just past mid-court.
    (Honourable mention to Elvisi Dusha, too, who netted the five-pointer during his side’s powerplay for a double-digit scoring play.)
  • Justin Robinson is ELITE. Just in case anyone needed a reminder. Robinson returning home is great for the league and could be great for GB, too. The experienced guard showed his class and was the epitome of composure in often chaotic surroundings.
  • Nimley/Paige – watch out. While numbers can be deceiving in pre-season, the new Eagles back-court combination quickly made people take notice, and they are going to be a problem this season. The ‘Fletcher 2.0’ tag is premature at this stage, but there are similarities and you can expect to see Nimley and Paige becoming regulars in the Top 10 Plays of the Week.

What worked well:

The powerplay was one of the better concepts, with a two-minute period of double points for the team that pressed the golden buzzer, even if some teams were caught out by not using within the first 10 minutes.

Assistant coaches played a role – notably Newcastle Eagles’ and Worcester Wolves’ – in executing the powerplay at the optimum time as one of their player lines up an outside shot.

Shorter games allowed chance to see all eight teams in action at least twice, which gives fans a little indication of what to expect in the coming season

London reaching the final helped – the crowd really got behind the hometown team and grew into the event as the day progress, perhaps becoming more accustomed as to what was happening in terms of the new rules.

While the danger of the event setting a false perception for new fans of the sport; game-winners, double overtime thrillers, crossovers, dunks on the fast break are all elements of the game that happen in a full-sized game and that’s what wows spectators, new or old.

What not so much:

Whilst the entertainment was there, the quality was often left wanting at times. Rash shot-selections, careless turnovers were a recurrent theme given the rushed nature of the game.

Dusha, McKnight, Nimley and Paige all connected with the five-point shot, but the list of those who fell way off the mark was considerably longer, although it did bring excitement.

The running clock and no free throws prevented the usual uncertainty of a duration of a game – more of a concern for broadcasters – though when it came to the crucial powerplay periods and late in the game, it proved an unfortunate hindrance.

Eagles made use of the rolling-subs system, much to the frustration of Rob Paternostro during his side’s powerplay. The clock kept ticking regardless and referees were too slow to get the game back ‘live’ from inbounds so this would be an area to look at.

Overall, the reaction has been mixed, as expected, but more positive than in the build-up, which suggests there is a future for the event to continue.

While some former/current players inside the arena did not approve, those at home seemed to be won over, which is a major positive when broadcasting around the world.

Ultimately it will come down to Matchroom to determine what worked and what didn’t and Barry Hearn in deciding whether it’s worth a return for 2018.

Were you at the event? Watched on TV? Or just didn’t want to watch?
Let us know in the comments!

  • LLC#12

    I was at the event. Although I was initially sceptical of the format/rule changes, overall it was an enjoyable event, and I would attend again.

    However, I would perhaps say it was an enjoyable event in spite of the rule changes, rather than because of them. I hope this event returns, whether that is via matchroom bringing it back in 2018 or the BBL staging it themselves, but if it does return, my suggestions would be the below.

    – It should be held mid-season (in a similar vein to the Spanish Copa Del Rey) so that the 8 teams that are attending are a bit more meritocratic.
    – 5point shot and powerplay should go. Added some excitement yes but overall a net negative imo.
    – Running clock should stay, but not for the last 1/2 minutes of the game.
    -Abbreviated game lengths makes sense due to the number of games, but I’d have preferred a slightly longer semi finals/finals.
    – The first few games and what they meant in terms of qualification were confusing. Combine this point with the previous one, and I think a simpler quarter final/semi final/final tournament would have made a lot more sense.
    -20 second shot clock and 6 second backcourt I’m on the fence about.
    – The fouling to stop the clock/regain the ball tactic that is normally ubiquitous in close games was redundant yesterday. I think some more thought is needed here, as there was a couple games that were close but the clock was just dribbled out.

    Still, it was an enjoyable event, and £100k prize money + coverage on TV is great for British basketball.

    As an aside, I was a bit disappointed with the attendance. Not sure whether this is because people were put off by the rules/format (admittedly I might have been if I’d not already bought tickets) or whether it is a another example of “British basketball fans” not having any interest in anything that isn’t the NBA. On that note, I find it interesting/disappointing that a pre-season game between a Lithuanian and a Polish team on Friday did a better job filling the Copper Box than any of the GB qualifying games did last summer. Probably the clearest example you’ll ever see as to why Lithuania are vastly better at basketball than GB are.

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