The Riders got back to winning ways in their latest outing in the British Basketball League, besting the Manchester Giants 94-79.
Here’s what we can take away from the result…
The importance of hitting the ground running
The Riders have found themselves battling back from early deficits throughout this season, but with three new players brought into the starting lineup, they hit the ground running in this one.
Miryne Thomas burst out of the gate with eight points, two rebounds, and two steals, setting the tone and leading the team to a 29-11 opening quarter.
Leicester built a platform to see the game out from, and never allowed the Giants to come within single digits the rest of the way.
“We’ve been starting slow and playing from behind early, and we couldn’t have that tonight,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro after the game.
“We knew they were coming into this one having played the night before, and we stuck it to them early and saw the game out really well.”
Getting ahead at the jump injected life into the Riders faithful, building an incredible atmosphere in the arena and giving energy into the team throughout. The early form was pivotal to the victory, and the team will be hoping for more quick momentum this weekend.
Experience steadies the ship
Following the departure of three players in the previous weeks, it fell on the Riders’ veterans to take up bigger roles in this one. They stepped up in a big way, with three long-term Riders bagging double-digit points.
Kimbal Mackenzie made his return to the starting lineup, after leading the bench unit for much of the season so far. He didn’t miss a beat, tallying 16 points and six assists, and finishing the game with a +/- of 14.
Mo Walker, in his second straight start, saw the team over the line with his impact in the fourth quarter. The Giants brought the game back to 11 going into the final period, so making the next run was pivotal for either team’s success.
The Riders dumped the ball down low to the big man, and he responded with six quick points to put the game to bed.
The final piece of the puzzle was 11-year Rider Conner Washington, who put up a season-high of 14 off the bench. Washington was gunning from deep, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts and hitting timely shots throughout the game.
The calm heads of players who have seen it all in Riders red played an important role in getting back to winning ways.
Strength in numbers
In addition to Walker, Washington and Mackenzie, the Riders had three further double-digit scorers in a team effort up and down the roster.
Thomas led the game with 17 points in only 19 minutes, but it was TJ Lall who earned player of the game honours with 16 points and eight rebounds in his return to the starting five.
Lall combined with Washington to make waves in the second quarter, going for six points and three rebounds to close the half and keep the Riders in control. His impact on both ends through his 33 minutes of play, through his scoring, rebounding and defence, saw him put together a well-rounded performance in the win.
Making it count at the line
The Riders showed poise and composure at the foul stripe in the game, not letting a single freebie go to waste. They made all 14 of their attempts, with six different Riders making journeys to the line and making all of their shots.
Leicester ranks among the League’s best in free throw percentage, knocking them down at 77% rate, the second-best in the British Basketball League.
Their killer efficiency from the line was an important part of seeing the game out, preventing any life from being breathed into a Giants side that fought wire to wire.
Battling in back-to-backs
The Giants played the Riders off the back of a gruelling battle with the Plymouth City Patriots, where they took home a 91-90 win.
They made the trip to Leicester the next day, and perhaps lacked the legs underneath them to keep up with the Riders’ energy early.
It has been a theme of this British Basketball League season, with teams having to dig deep through a densely packed schedule.
The Riders face a similar task this weekend, taking on the Cheshire Phoenix on the road two days after a clash against the London Lions, with Cheshire enjoying a week’s rest in the build-up to the game.
They’ll have to find ways of overcoming this task when they hit the road next weekend.
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