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Riders @ Scorchers
3:00 pm - Surrey Sports Park
Jaren Holmes reflects on the weekend’s action

Leicester Riders are the back of a 1-1 weekend, where they faced the top two ranked teams in the British Basketball League Championship standings. 

They kicked off with a hard-fought 101-93 victory against Cheshire Phoenix, handing them their first loss in 2024. 

On Sunday, they headed to London to face the league champion Lions, falling 105-89. 

Riders All-Star guard Jaren Holmes reflected on the weekend of play… 

Overcoming adversity 

The Riders pulled out the win against Cheshire in the face of adversity. They fell in a 20-2 hole to start the game and battled back to tie it in the second quarter.

Their leading scorer, Teddy Allen, then picked up a double technical foul as the game approached the half, and their captain, Kimbal Mackenzie, picked up a second unsportsmanlike foul in the third quarter. 

Despite all of that, playing against a team they were yet to beat this season, they rallied to grind out a win. 

“It shows our competitive nature,” reflected Holmes, who went off for 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in the game. 

“We had to have a next man up mentality, and we have a great group of guys that love to play the game and compete. It showed that night. 

“When Kimbal and Teddy were ejected, we took a breath and continued to play our game. Guys stepped up and it showed in those moments. We have a lot of talent on this team.”

Despite falling in a big hole early, the home crowd willed their team to the win with infectious energy all night. 

“There was a great energy in the building, and our team really fed off it,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro after the game, and Holmes seconded that sentiment.

“The crowd had a huge impact. They willed us to it. They kept getting louder and louder, and bringing that positivity. It truly helped me throughout the entire game. It was an exciting game overall, and they made it fun. They were world-class.

“I think it was our best win of the year so far.”

Battling in the capital

The second quarter is where the damage was done against the Lions. They lost the second 33-14, heading into halftime down 19. 

“Playing London, you have to hit shots and get back in transition. We missed a few shots in a row and they ended up with two threes. Those are swings you can’t have when you come up against a team that talented,” said Holmes. 

Despite the loss, the Riders won the other three quarters by five, fighting wire to wire despite the heavy deficit. 

“There are always positives to take from games. Kimbal had to sit out in the second quarter, and Conner [Washington] stepped up to lead the point.

“It showed his ability to step up in the big moments. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we didn’t skip a beat. The offence continued to flow, we played hard until the end. 

“We were up against a good team who are in the playoffs of the EuroCup. There are moments where anyone can be beaten, so if you keep knocking on that door, it’s going to open.”

Ready to bounce back in Bristol 

The Riders are back in action on Sunday, heading to Bristol to face the Flyers. 

The last time the sides met in Championship action, the Flyers took an 87-81 win in Leicester. The Riders took revenge in the next meeting, winning 95-74 in the British Basketball League Trophy. 

“They’re a great team, coached well with dynamic players,” commented Holmes on his next opponent. 

They’re up in your face and they press most of the game. We have to take care of the ball because they thrive in transition, and then limit their three-point opportunities in the half-court.”

The Flyers lead the league in rebounds per game in the Championship this season and pull down the most offensive boards in the League as well. Their All-Star centre, Brad Greene, leads all players in rebounding with 10.2 a game and is averaging a double-double this season. 

“They rebound extremely well, especially on the offensive end,” said Holmes. “We have to keep them off the glass. Rebounding is absolutely the emphasis this week.

It’s not just Greene, They all crash and help him, so we have to find ways to create two-on-one against him and  take him out of the play when the ball comes off the rim.”

The sides play at opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to their play style. Leicester play at the fastest pace of any team this season, and Bristol at the second slowest. 

Holmes says it’s important to establish the game at Leicester’s tempo. 

“We have to trust in the work we have, not change who we are regardless of who is in front of us. We want to push the pace, get up shots and play together as a team.” 

The game tips off on Sunday, March 10, at 2 pm. You can watch the action live here, on the British Basketball League Youtube channel!