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Championship Preview: Riders vs Wildcats

Leicester Riders return home to take on the Nottingham Wildcats in their fourth game of the Women’s British Basketball League season. 

They have the chance to improve to 4-0 to start the season in the first season under new Head Coach Ben Stanley. 

Fixture information 

Leicester Riders vs Nottingham Wildcats 

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Saturday, November 25, 4:30 PM

Get tickets here!

Tickets for the following Riders men’s game against Manchester Giants are also valid for the women’s game, so come down and get behind the team! 

Three on the bounce

The first three games of the season were in little doubt late on for the Riders, who have won by a margin of 32 per game. Their latest opponent was the Cardiff Met Archers, who the Riders faced on the road in South Wales. 

Leicester came away with a dominant 110-64 win against the Archers in a game that was in little doubt throughout. Their leading scorer on the season Taylor O’Brien led the way once again with a 26 point outing. 

“I owe it all to my teammates,” said O’Brien after the win. “They’ve been able to get me easy, open shots. The way we move and pass the ball makes it easy for everybody on this team to be successful.”

That was evident against the Archers, as the Riders had six players contribute double-digit points to the explosive offensive performance. Now, they look ahead to the Wildcats, hoping to continue in their rich vein of form. 

 “We’ve got to do it again. We have to come out with energy, be strong and together, and if we do that we’ll be ok.”

Coach’s thoughts 

Head Coach Ben Stanley has enjoyed an undefeated start to his tenure at the reins of the Leicester Riders. 

With three wins under the team’s belt, Stanley looks to build in the team’s performances for the rest of the season. 

“On the defensive end of the floor it was our best performance of the season,” said Stanley. “It’s been a really weird season for trying to find a rhythm with the late start and international break, so it was a great performance from the ladies.

“We’ve got a great group of young ladies, and it’s been a pleasure to coach them. We’re still building, and trying to become more consistent in the performances we’re putting out there. Consistency and discipline are the two biggest words for us at the moment.”

Wildcats looking for first win

After a 3-19 season last year left them second bottom of the Championship standings last season, this year has started much like the last for the Wildcats. 

They are 0-4 through their opening games, shooting a League-low 21.2% from three and 40.7% from the field which results in only 68.8 points per game. 

Last time out, it was the Durham Palatinates who took an 85-72 victory against the Wildcats in Nottingham. They hung in the game deep in the fourth quarter, keeping it to within single digits with four and a half minutes remaining, but the Palatinates had enough to stretch their lead late and come away with the win. 

They’re led on the season by Mari Stewart, who went off for 24 points and eight rebounds against Durham to bring her season average to 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per outing. 

The second-year Wildcat is their best source of offensive production early in the year, and Nottingham will lean on her to find a way past the in-form Riders. 

Key matchup 

Backing up her teammate in the clash against Durham was American Jessica Wayne, who put up 21 points and 11 rebounds on 53% shooting in the clash. 

Wayne signed with the Wildcats from Durham this offseason, having spent her first two professional seasons with the Palatinates. In 35.2 minutes per game, she put up 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds, making her name as one of the League’s forces around the paint from the guard spot. 

The 25-year-old is a two-way threat and established as an elite perimeter defender. Last season, she earned a spot on the WBBL All-Defensive team, ranking third in the League in steals per game with 3.1.

Matching up on the other end is captain Mckenzie Johnston, who has hit the ground running in her second season in Riders red. 

The Montana native is scoring 14.7 per game, and earned a spot on the Women’s British Basketball League Team of the Week in week two after she put up 19 points and nine rebounds against Oaklands Wolves. 

In a game where a hot start was important in setting the tone against the Cardiff Met Archers last time out, she was directly involved in the team’s first 15 which saw them burst out to a big lead.

Johnston has taken a step up from an impressive first season with the Riders, where her 8.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game helped the team to three domestic finals. 

The captain will have a vital responsibility on both ends in this one, and will look to prove the difference in her matchup with Wayne.