The Leicester Riders are heading back to the Benecos BBL Playoff Final at the O2 Arena on Sunday for a fourth consecutive season. The Riders defeated the Plymouth Raiders 155-141 on aggregate in the Semi Final as they look to defend their playoff title.
Leicester Riders progressed to the play-off final for the fourth season in a row after a thrilling semi-final with the Plymouth Raiders. The Devon side pushed Riders hard at the Morningside Arena, but Riders had too much for them in the second half and ran out 85-73 victors on the night for a 14-point aggregate success.
The Riders will now head to The O2 next Sunday looking to claim the title for the third year in a row, but will face a red-hot London City Royals who are gunning for a trophy double having claimed the BBL Trophy in March.
Pierre Hampton, despite still struggling with a leg problem, was inserted into the starting line-up having missed the first game and he quickly caused Plymouth some problems. His lay-up capped six unanswered points to give Leicester a 12-4 lead.
But the Raiders hit back with nine consecutive points for their first lead of the game at 13-12. Josh Wilcher banked in a triple on the first quarter buzzer and then Joonas Jarvelainen scored one to start the second period to give Plymouth their first aggregate lead at 26-23.
The threes continued to drop, and the Raiders had a six-point advantage 14 minutes into the game. Tim Williams was having his way inside, though, and that, coupled with a tremendous effort from Josh Ward-Hibbert off the bench, saw Riders back ahead on the night at 39-38.
Ward-Hibbert laid in on the half-time buzzer to see Riders edging it 46-44, but Wilcher and Devontavius Payne both hit from long range to again give Plymouth the aggregate lead 56-52. That was with 15 minutes to go and it was to be the last time Riders were behind, Ward-Hibbert and Andy Thomson hitting consecutive triples to help Riders 60-56 in front.
Riders were starting to take control, Williams was unstoppable inside and with Ward-Hibbert and Thomson chipping they stretched the lead to 71-62. Plymouth were tiring, but Riders didn’t relent, opening a 12-point lead with four minutes to go and ensuring the final stages were relatively stress free.
Williams made an incredible 12 of his 15 shot attempts to lead the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds, although Riders fans were a little concerned to see him limp out in the dying seconds with an apparent ankle knock. Ward-Hibbert, Thomson and Conner Washington all added 13 points each.
Riders: Williams 25, Washington 13, Thomson 13, Ward-Hibbert 13, Hampton 8, Holder 6, Clark 5, Anderson 2, Gamble, Christofis, Lascelles, Douse.
Raiders: Jarvelainen 17, Hassan 12, Wilcher 12, Nicholas 12, Payne 12, Ubiaro 5, Adekoya 3, Wells, Shelton, Okiki, Palmer.