Lions join Mid City A in all-Magic final

A spot in the final was on the line when Andy Armstrong caught the ball on the three-point line.

The Magic Lions guard was wide open with a second remaining in double overtime — and he delivered.

He splashed the shot home to give the Magic Lions a 101-98 win over the St Kilda Saints in Saturday’s men’s club basketball semifinal.

It set up an all-Magic final, as the Mid City Magic A had clinched the first spot by beating the Saints a week ago.

However, it could so easily have gone either way.

Neither side let the other get away as the energy and quality remained high throughout.

The Saints started stronger, shooting out to a 14-2 lead against a shell-shocked Lions side.

Centre Jack Andrew (21 points) was dominant inside, before three-pointers guards to James Ross (18 points) and Michael Ruske (25 points) gave the Saints a 12-point buffer.

The Lions — who were without stars Darcy Knox (head knock) and Kane Keil (not playoff eligible) — called a timeout and began clawing their way back.

Tall Black Sam Timmins’ presence inside became notable.

He attracted two defenders on offence, creating space for his team-mates — although he still put up a game-high 31 points.

It was defensively he showed his value, though, his size limiting the looks the Saints got inside.

The Lions got it back to 21-15 at the end of the quarter, before both Timmins and Nathan Hanna (19 points) began to exert further dominance inside.

They pulled the Lions back to 40-37 at halftime, Ross at times keeping the Saints’ score ticking over by himself.

The Lions adjusted defensively after halftime.

They honed in on Ross, nuggety point guard Liam Ayson doing a fantastic job of keeping him quiet.

The Saints’ scoring dried up and the Lions surged ahead by 10, but a steal and three-pointer on the buzzer to Ruske brought it back to 65-58.

From there the Saints began to generate open looks again, Andrew and Ruske proving key and a late three to veteran forward Matt Gillan forcing overtime.

The Lions continued to pound it inside and after Ross hit a shot to give the Saints a late 90-88 lead, Timmins hit two free throws to force a second overtime.

But Ross fouled out with two minutes to play and while the Saints kept it tight, Timmins attracted its defence inside, allowing the Lions to find Armstrong (19 points) to hit the winning shot.

The game had been emotionally charged from the beginning, players from the Lions and Magic sporting anti-racism T-shirts.

It was a response to an alleged racist incident in a previous game.

Basketball Otago said the allegation was under review and it could not comment further.


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