The Leicester Riders went 1-1 on the weekend defeating Surrey on Friday night before a loss down in London against the Lions on Sunday. Unfortunately due to London’s victory in Newcastle on Friday the Riders were unable to retain the BBL Championship for the 4thyear running.
Leicester Riders 87 v Surrey Scorchers 81
BBL Championship – Friday 26 April
Leicester Riders did all they could, but their three-year reign as BBL league champions came to an end on Friday night. Riders defeated Surrey Scorchers 87-81 in the vain attempt of setting up a league title decider on the final day of the season, but 185 miles north Newcastle were not able to help them out.
Within a few minutes of the final buzzer at the Morningside Arena, the London Lions had secured the victory they needed to ensure Sunday’s game was a mere formality as they had claimed their first ever league title.
A couple of Tayo Ogedengbe triples in the first five minutes saw the visitors off to a 12-6 start and as the Scorchers continued to shoot the three-ball well, they lead for most of the opening quarter.
With Leicester’s bench shortened by injuries, the starting five saw much of the action, but despite that they were still unable to get on top in the game. It wasn’t until the final minute of the first half that they took their first lead, but they did take at 45-43 advantage into the interval.
Having spent most of the first half behind, Riders spent the whole of the second half in front and an 11-0 run highlighted by threes from JR Holder and Brandon Clark saw them into a real comfort margin at 66-53.
Jamell Anderson (twice) and Conner Washington both hit from behind the arc to give Riders an 81-62 lead with six minutes to play, but as Riders eased off in the closing stages, the Scorchers were able to post a 15-2 run, driven by Anthony Elechi, to give the visitors a sliver of hope.
The victory, though, never looked like truly slipping from Riders grasp, even if the Lions result ultimately meant the title did.
Anderson had his best offensive night of the season with 18 points, whilst Washington, Holder and Williams also chipped in with 16 points each.
Riders: Anderson 18, Washington 16, Holder 16, Williams 16, Hampton 8, Clark 8, Thomson 5, Gamble, Ward-Hibbert, Lascelles, Douse, Kitenge.
Scorchers: Ogedengbe 18, Mvuezolo 16, Elechi 12, Williams 9, Atwood 9, Taylor 8, Raftopoulos 6, Wilkins 3, Wellian.
London Lions 89 v Leicester Riders 69
BBL Championship – Sunday 28 April
Leicester Riders regular season came to an end with a young side being beaten 89-69 by the London Lions. With nothing riding on the outcome, Coach Rob Paternostro gave his key players the day off ahead of next weekend’s play-offs.
The Riders line-up featured only Harrison Gamble and Kiefer Douse from their usual roster and Douse left the game after only seven minutes after picking up a knock in a collision under the basket.
Despite their youthfulness, Riders started brightly, Lucien Christofis with five points and threes from Gamble and Douse saw them 13-11 in front. London, though, netted the last eleven points of the first quarter to lead 22-13.
Four points from Yiannas Panaretakis helped Riders narrow the gap to 25-21 early in the second quarter, but the Lions’ superior size allowed them to again stretch the advantage to 34-21.
Back-to-back triples from Jonas Dieterich got the gap into single figures once again, but the home side went into the break 44-34 in front.
Gamble hit consecutive threes and 19-year-old Niall Harris was showing composure beyond his years as Riders cut the Lions lead to six early in the third quarter.
A run of six unanswered points had the home side 68-53 clear, before a Harris triple narrowed the gap to ten with only seven minutes remaining. That, though, was as close as Riders would get as the Lions pulled away in the final few minutes.
In a spirited performance by the young Riders roster Niall Harris led the way for the Riders with 14 points, whilst Jonas Dieterich chipped in with 10.
Lions: Tabb 21, Spencer 17, James 12, Ikhinmwin12, Bristol 10, Okoro 8, Ekperuoh 4, Larkai 3, Peel 2, Lockhart, Roberts.
Riders: Harris 14, Dieterich 10, Gamble 9, Christofis 8, Panaretakis 7, Jimenez 6, Forsyth 6, Douse 5, Damerum 4, Kitenge, Haggith.
The Leicester Riders face the Cheshire Phoenix in the Benecos BBL Playoff Quarter Final Second Leg on Sunday 5thMay, CLICK HERE to get your tickets as the Riders look to defend their title.