Leicester Riders put on one of their most impressive performances of the season to hand the league leading London Lions only their second defeat of the campaign.
Riders dominated the first half, particularly defensively, leading by as many as 19 and when the champions made their charge in the second half, Leicester came up with some big plays to keep them at bay.
Leicester kept Lions scoreless for the first five minutes of the contest and through eight minutes the visitors only manged two Ovie Soko baskets. Lions then hit consecutive three-pointers to trim Riders’ lead to only four points, before Josh Ward-Hibbert and Corey Johnson responded in kind to give Leicester a 20-10 lead at the end of the period.
Aside from Soko’s ability to get to the foul line, Lions continued to struggle against the Riders defence and some sensational dunks from Jamell Anderson, coupled with a few Namon Wright scores, saw Riders post a 10-2 run on their way to a 44-25 lead.
Soko again managed to get the scoreboard ticking with free throws, but Riders were 44-30 ahead at the interval. Early in the second half, the Lions finally found some team offence, scoring nine points without reply to narrow the gap to 47-38.
Five points from Jordan Spencer kept his former team-mates at bay, but with Ky Cartwright’s minutes limited with knee issues, the Lions full court pressure caused Leicester problems.
Another six unanswered points sent the visitors into the final break with all the momentum and the gap down to only three points. Johnson’s three-pointer early in the fourth doubled the advantage and some great work inside from Darien Nelson-Henry made it 67-60.
Johnson again netted from long range and when Jesse Chuku hit a three-pointer despite being knocked to the ground by Soko, his four-point play gave Riders a ten-point lead.
But again, London’s pressure paid off and with two minutes to play the difference was once again only three points. Nelson-Henry immediately made it a two-shot game and Johnson was able to keep Riders clear of the Lions in the closing stages.
Johnson had his best scoring night so far in a Riders shirt with 18 points, whilst Wright and Nelson-Henry made key contributes with 17 and 12 respectively. But it was probably the defensive effort that was most impressive, holding the Lions to 17 points below their average so far in this campaign.
Riders: Johnson 18, Wright 17, Nelson-Henry 12, Chuku 8, Anderson 8, Ward-Hibbert 7, Spencer 5, Cartwright 4, Thomson 4, Roberts, Jimenez, Scott.
Lions: Soko 21, Dang Akodo 11, Tuach 11, Peel 11, Adegboye 8, Robinson 5, Lockhart 5, Whelan 2, Tew 2, Toluwase, Ikhinmwin.
The Riders return to action on February 14th as the Riders take on the Newcastle Eagles, CLICK HERE to get your tickets!