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Final Four Report: Riders bow out of Trophy to Phoenix

The Riders fell short of a dramatic comeback in the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four, losing 92-91 to the Cheshire Phoenix. 

Leicester were down 12 with 2:55 left, but led the game with 20 seconds on the clock after a spirited comeback. But the Phoenix had the final say, as Rideau finished a layup through contact to win it.

Miryne Thomas had a shot to win the game, but missed a tough running triple on the buzzer. 

Star guard Teddy Allen led the team with 20 points scoring five quick points to trigger the comeback. He was backed by 13 from Mackenzie and Thomas.

Cheshire’s physical wing Aaryn Rai led the game with a monster 27-point, 11-rebound double-double. Stretch big Skyler White went off for 23, hitting six threes in key moments throughout for Cheshire. 

Leicester’s veterans settled the nerves to start the game, as Mackenzie and Mo Walker put up the first seven points of the game. Jaren Holmes followed up with an and-one finish in transition, making it a 10-5 Riders start. 

Walker had a dominant start on the boards. He grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in the opening five minutes, the third making it 16-9 as he finished for two. 

The Phoenix hit back by driving to the hoop for back-to-back and-one plays. Rai had to second of the plays cut it to 16-13. 

The first closed at a slower scoring pace, but the Riders had the stronger of it and finished the quarter up 22-18. 

The Phoenix tied it up at 24 to start the second, with Maceo Jack running the break and finishing in close. Rideau drove to the hoop next time up the court, and took contact from Leicester’s Conner Washington for another score, plus the foul, to force a Riders timeout. 

Leicester locked in on defence to stem the tide and keep in touch with their opponents. They held the Phoenix to three points in two minutes, keeping them from the hoop with effective perimeter defence. 

All of the Riders’ second-quarter points came at the hoop. With their deep shots not falling, they stayed aggressive on both ends. 

But Cheshire ended the half with a 10-0 run, led by five from Rai, and the teams finished the half with the score 46-34 to the Phoenix. Rai led all scorers at the break with 13 points. 

Back-to-back White threes started the second half for the Phoenix, putting them up 18. The Riders started off 0-2 from deep, bringing them to 1-10 from three on the game. 

Thomas came up with a monster highlight, throwing down a putback jam off a Mackenzie missed layup. 

Walker connected to take the lid off the rim as the Riders attempted to claw back into the game. Holmes followed up with two scores to bring it to a 12 point difference. But the Riders efforts had a dent put in them with a Maceo Jack triple for Cheshire. 

Allen hit back with his first three of the game, and heated up with an and-one play, fading away from Cam Holden through contact. But Rai hit shots to keep the Riders at arm’s length, keeping his team up double digits. 

Allen scored seven in the third, but Rai came up with 9 points for the Phoenix. He blocked TJ Lall’s attempted three to end the third, Cheshire up 69-57. 

The Riders battled to start the fourth, Duke Shelton cutting it to 10 with a layup over Rai. Thomas quickly made it a single-digit affair on the next play with a score in the post. 

Allen drained a tough stepback three, then ran the break with Shelton with 5:41 remaining to bring the score to 79-73. Duke sent back Rai’s attempt in close to keep it to six with 4:52 left. 

White responded with a miracle three, pulling up from the corner with Shelton draped over him to snatch momentum back. White kept connecting from behind the arc, and the Phoenix stretched the lead back to 12 with 2:55 left. 

Thomas responded with back-to-back buckets to make it 82-89, before Mackenzie took a charge and drained a three to peg the Phoenix back. Holmes followed with a three, making it a one point affair. 

White got to the foul line with less than a minute left to put the Phoenix up two. The Riders fell back on their captain in the clutch, as Mackenzie came up with a monster and-one play with 20 seconds remaining to put Leicester up one. 

But Rideau had the final say, driving to the rim for an and-one of his own to snatch the lead back. Thomas missed a running three on the buzzer, ending the game.