London Lions capture EuroCup title with Finals comeback triumph -

London Lions capture EuroCup title with Finals comeback triumph

London Lions are European champions after claiming the EuroCup title with an 81-70 victory over Besiktas sealing a four-point aggregate triumph.

Holly Winterburn hit the huge three inside the final 20 seconds to help secure an unbelievable achievement with jubilant scenes at the buzzer at the Copper Box Arena, on Wednesday evening.

“Crazy,” Winterburn said. “Basketball is a game of runs, they made some big shots at the end and we had to lock in. But we earned this, we deserve this, we’ve worked hard every single day. We’ve had stretches of 3-4 weeks without games and we practiced hard every single day at each other.

“The group has stayed together through everything, the bond that we’ve created is the reason we win today. I don’t think I’ll ever play on a team like this again…I’ve had the time of my life this year.”

Stella Kaltsidou’s side overcame a seven-point deficit from the first leg as they battled past their Turkish opponents, who struggled with foul trouble in defeat.

“I cannot describe it. I’m so proud, so proud of all of them, so proud,” Kaltsidou said after the game.

“We are a team that have shown that we come out stronger from difficulties. What I said to the girls; all the season they’ve shown what it takes to be a winner, have what it takes to be a champion. And they just did whatever they have done all season, they executed everything, they were passionate, they played really hard out there and they won.

“They know when they play like this it’s really hard to lose a game. I’m just really proud of how much we’ve grown this season.”

Karlie Samuelson was crowned Finals MVP after netting a team-high 19 points to back up a 16-point showing on the road, while Megan Gustafson had 18 and Temi Fagbenle had 17.

Box score.

Fagbenle set the tone with the opening two scores of the game, but they were knotted at 8-apiece at the midway point of the first quarter.

The Lions would then make their first significant move with a 15-5 spell featuring a pair of triples from Winterburn and one from Abby Meyers that made it a 10-point game – and crucially +2 on the aggregate score in favour of the hosts.

Besiktas had trimmed the gap to six at 23-17 after 10 minutes in a strong response that soon saw them draw back level on the night as Dana Evans glided to the basket.

Another London run followed with Gustafson’s three restoring the double-digit cushion. The lead peaked at 11 points, but the British side were still ahead overall heading into the half-time break, up 45-35.

Serbian Jovana Nogic scored five quick points early in the third to get Besiktas back into the ascendancy. However, they were kept at bay by London and Gustafson hit a second three on the night to make it an 11-point game once more.

Then a massive moment soon followed with the tie evenly poised: Nogic fouled out, hugely contested by the Besiktas bench.

It was the turn of London’s top scorer Samuelson to collect a fourth foul soon after, and the visitors would reclaim the aggregate lead despite trailing 60-55 heading into the final quarter.

London continued to stay ahead on the night, but were still behind on aggregate at the midway point as Besiktas lost two more players to a fifth foul with influential big Yueru Li being the latest victim to foul trouble.

The aggregate lead was finally taken by the Lions after the opposition coach was ejected with a 10-point gap opened up from the free throw line. Evans responded with an immediate triple with under two minutes left on the clock before a dramatic back-and-forth ensued.

Shey Peddy hit a huge three to make it 76-68, only for Evans to put Besiktas back in front overall with less than 30 seconds remaining. Then came the defining moment from Winterburn before Gustafson would seal the deal with a pair of free throws, and London were crowned champions.

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