Leicester Riders welcomed five teams from four different countries, as well as sell-out crowds, to Loughborough University for the first Loughborough Invitational tournament last weekend (21-22 September).
The event showcased all of the Leicester Riders’ senior national league squads, male and female, alongside the BBL team taking on the visiting USA Select team, as they all continue to build up to their season openers.
The newly-developed Loughborough Riders Women’s team was in action for the first time this weekend, taking on Irish Superleague team Waterford Wildcats and London-based Barking Abbey. In a toughly contested game, the Riders forced a tie against the London team before returning Sunday to knock off Waterford in convincing fashion, 72-52.
As well, the male and female Leicester Riders academy players based at Charnwood College saw their first competitive action against the USA Select and St Mirren from Scotland, for the men and women respectively. Both teams gave a good account of themselves showing early signs of progress as preseason draws to a close. Two AASE players also received a call up for their first appearance with the senior mens team, both Timothy Fava and Thomas Yome, who are studying at Charnwood College, gave a good account of themselves at the senior level.
Once the Women’s games came to a close, it was the turn of the BBL men’s side to take on visiting USA Select in front of an excited capacity crowd over both days.
On Saturday night, Riders won 95-67, sparked by the return of Jay Couisnard, turning out for the Champions for his first game in pre-season.
The Americans kept the game close in the first two periods, characterised by some slick play from Riders, balanced out by excellent long range shooting by the touring team. At the first quarter break Riders were up 22-15, and fine shooting from new boy Anthony Downing, who finished with a impressive 67% shooting from the floor, helped Riders to a 47-34 half time lead.
With Couisnard, Rashad Hassan and Barry Lamble dominating the boards in the second half, Riders were always in control. Downing had 4 rebounds and 4 assists to go with his game high 24 points, Couisnard finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Hassan racked up 15 points and 7 rebounds for a well drilled Riders team. Levi Noel chipped in 10 points and 8 rebounds as he continues to impress.
In the match on Sunday, Riders, with Connor Washington showing the way with an early triple and a three-point play, took immediate control of Sunday’s game, building a 16-4 lead, with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. Anderson’s three-point play took Riders to a 24-13 lead at the first-quarter break.
USA Select threatened a comeback early in the second period, cutting the deficit to 5, but fired by Couisnard, Riders stepped us a gear, and at half-time led 43-29.
Back came the Americans at the start of the second half on an 11-2 run to close the gap to 5. With 2 minutes left in the third, Riders’ lead was just 55-52, but that was as close as it got, Riders going on a 6-nil run to close the quarter.
The fourth period was one-way traffic, with Downing dazzling, Couisnard controlling the boards and Hassan showing a range of moves close to the basket. In the end they were too strong for the Americans, with Riders winning 102-68. Hassan led the way with 25 points and 7 rebounds, while Downing chipped in 20 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Riders now look on to their final week of preseason practice ahead of taking on newly formed Birmingham Knights at the John Sandford Centre, 7:30pm on Saturday 28th September. To book tickets in advance, please call the office on 0116 258 635 or CLICK HERE.
Image Credit: Andrew Thompson