Leicester Riders secured their first victory of the season on Friday, beating the Plymouth City Patriots 88-81.
Here’s what we can take from the fixture.
Riders have heart
The Riders had to dig deep in the game, coming back from a double-digit deficit to get one in the win column.
The score was 61-51 in the visitor’s favour with five minutes remaining in the third, before Miryne Thomas’ three kick-started a run that would see Leicester take their first lead since the opening quarter two minutes into the fourth.
It was a closely fought encounter down the stretch, as the Riders demonstrated their composure in the clutch to see the game out.
After having difficulty putting the ball in the hoop through the first three quarters, Leicester captain Kimbal Mackenzie found form when it mattered, leaning on his experience to see out the win from the free-throw line.
Head Coach Rob Paternostro’s side demonstrated their ability not only to fight back into a game but to see it out in the clutch.
Success attacking the basket
During the comeback, the Riders found success in close, driving and attacking the hoop to get points on the board. In the fourth quarter, 18 of their 29 points came at the rim, and eight at the free throw line.
High-flying Blake Bowman set the tone, using his speed and athleticism to find a way to the teeth of Plymouth’s defence and finish strong. The Riders have players up and down the roster who can find holes in defences, opening them up with dribble penetration.
Combined with the post-play of Samuel Idowu, Bralen Bridges and TJ Lall, who allowed Leicester to dump the ball down low and let them go to work, the Riders found consistent methods of keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
Making his professional debut, Caleb Asberry returned to the gameday squad after missing the season opener through injury.
Asberry made his presence known, playing a pivotal role in the lineup that got the Riders back into the game.
Subbing in with 3:52 left in the third, the Riders went 26-15 until Asberry’s exit from the tie with 3:12 left in the game. His layup early in the fourth cut it to one, and his ability to hunt down loose balls and secure rebounds was on full display.
The 6’3” guard grabbed four rebounds in 13 minutes of action, injecting the energy and effort the Riders needed to come back and win the tie.
“I thought Asberry gave us some really good minutes. He hasn’t played in a while, and defensively he was really solid,” said Paternostro after the game.
“Caleb adds a lot. He’s quick, and he wins the ball. When the ball is loose, he has a talent for finding it. He can really shoot and make plays on the other end. He was in the lineup that turned the game around.”
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