BBL Championship Preview: Riders vs Patriots

The Riders will play their penultimate home game of the season this Friday as they welcome the Plymouth City Patriots to Morningside Arena for the second time in a couple of weeks.

Both teams have plenty to play for as the visiting Patriots want to cement a playoff place, and Coach Rob’s squad will want to make second place their own.

Riders’ Season So Far

Following last weekend’s 87-78 victory against the always competitive Newcastle Eagles, Leicester sit in second place in the BBL championship, level on 44 points with the Bristol Flyers.

The Riders have slowly been reeling in their western rivals during March and April and keeping the loss column at 10 will be of high priority in the remaining couple of weeks.

As will the desire for a winning mentality heading into the post-season, something the team drew on to see off adversity in the Eagles game.

Newcastle dominated the first quarter, deservedly heading into the second boasting a 23-11 lead. The Riders were able to staunch the bleeding in the second, without doing much to address the double-digit deficit.

Then, the second half happened.

Led by an inspirational 35 minutes from Zach Jackson, Leicester rode the wave of excitement sent by the home crowd and surpassed their rivals.

Jackson, who seems to be peaking at exactly the right time, dropped 29 points on an eye-watering 76% FG percentage. Helped by Carrington Love (13 assists) who was throwing more dishes than a circus performer, the guard/forward put the Riders on his back.

Both Jackson and the rest of the Riders’ squad will know that a repeat of those numbers may be needed in the playoffs.

Patriots’ Season So Far

After winning against the Surrey Scorchers and surrendering a first half lead to Caledonia, the Patriots fell to a frustrating 85-80 loss at the hands of the Gladiators.

Despite getting double-digit scoring from four of their key players, Plymouth sit in the final playoff place with an 11-21 record after the loss.

The Patriots hold a six-point cushion over the Eagles, but with Newcastle’s form improving towards the end of the season, it is still all to play for.

Rather poetically, the Patriots face the Eagles in the final game of the season, which could be a winner-take-all classic.

The latest loss against the Glaswegians came despite a brilliant 18-point, 11-rebound effort by experienced center, Rashad Hassan.

Hassan’s 15.3 pts and 6.7 REBs season averages more than prove him to still be one of the best big men in the BBL, and Plymouth’s lynchpin.

Key Players

The names of Zach Jackson and Rashad Hassan have rightfully already been discussed in this preview, but beyond their talents, the role players will be tussling for supremacy.

Coming off the bench, both Riders’ Jubril Adekoya and Patriots’ Otas Iyekekpolor bring an extra dimension to the court.

The powerful Adekoya is a big who can do everything well. Whether it be scoring down low – the forward is hitting 57.1% of his attempts from that area – boxing out fellow ‘bigs’, or dishing a couple of flashy assists, Adekoya causes problems for the opposition.

He has even found some range this season, knocking down over 50% of his three-pointers when he takes them from a central position.

The rangy Iyekekpolor is a player from a different mould to Adekoya but equally as effective.

More at home hitting mid-rangers and from three than twisting and turning down low, the 6’8 Canadian is hitting 60% from the centre three area.

He is also active on the glass, pulling down 4.25 rebounds per game, including an impressive 12 in his BBL debut back on March 12.

Neither of these players are headliners, but when they inevitably share the court on Friday night, the clash of styles will be a joy to watch.

The winner of that battle could turn the momentum of a game in their team’s favour.

The Riders know well the power of momentum after last week’s comeback win over the Eagles.

Where to watch

The game tips off at the Morningside Arena, Leicester at 7:45 pm.

Get your tickets here!

It will also be streamed live on the British Basketball League youtube channel, starting at 7:30 pm.