Playoff preview: Leicester Riders vs Essex Rebels

Leicester Riders are set to tip-off their 2024 Playoff campaign at the Mattioli Arena against Essex Rebels. 

The Riders enter the postseason as the 4-seed, finishing 15-5 in the Championship. Meanwhile the Rebels’ 11-9 record earned them the 5-seed following their trip to the Trophy Final in January. 

Here’s what to expect from the matchup.

Fixture information

Leicester Riders vs Essex Rebels 

Mattioli Arena, Leicester

Women’s British Basketball League Playoff Quarter-Finals

2:45 pm

One to watch

Kat Tudor

18.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists

American guard Kat Tudor is Essex’s leading scorer this season. She ended the season as the fourth leading scorer in the Women’s British Basketball League, and shot the best from the field of anyone in the top eight of the scoring charts at 46.3%. 

The 25-year-old joined the Rebels from Australian NBL1 West side Mandura Magic, where she was the second-leading score on the team with 15.6 points. 

Her scoring ability translated seamlessly to British basketball. She scored in double digits in every game this season, and averaged 28.5 over her last two Championship games. 

Tudor’s best performance of the season, 31/5 on 80% FG shooting, came in her penultimate game against Oaklands Wolves, heating up in time for the postseason.

She went 6-7 from three in that game, and is capable of catching a heater from deep on any night. She shot 7-12 against the Giants and 5-9 against the Riders earlier in the season.

Tudor also shot 5-6 from three on her way to 24 points to knock the Riders out of the Trophy in January, and will look for another red hot game as the Rebels get their Playoffs underway. 

Season series

In all competitions, the Riders won the season series against the Rebels 2-1. It was 2-0 in the Championship season, the Riders winning by an average of 8.5 in two closely fought games, but the Rebels won in a win-or-go-home Trophy game 84-70. 

Game one, played in Essex, was a 79-70 Riders win, led by Taylor O’Brien’s 20 points and Rayven Peeples’ 17. It was a closely fought affair, with a four point difference on the scorebaord with three minutes on the clock, but captain Mckenzie Johnston’s 6 points in the final minutes saw the Riders over the line. 

Kat Tudor’s game-high 25 points wasn’t enough for Essex, but 24 in the next game was. Tudor shot 6-7 from the field, 5-6 from three and 7-9 from the foul line in a red hot shooting night to progress past the Riders in the Trophy. 

The Riders were down by as much as 24 in the game, but pulled it back to six late in the fourth. However, five straight points from Tudor ended the Riders comeback, and their Trophy journey in the first round. 

The Riders’ revenge came in April, playing Essex at home for the first time. They won 60-52, Johnston leading Leicester with 15 points. The hosts led wire-to-wire, and by as much as 17 points in the third.

But a run at the end of the quarter saw the Rebels enter the fourth down only 46-40. Johnston, again, put the team on her back late to score six in the final two minutes of play, leading Leicester to a win. 

Battle on the boards

The rebounding battle was pivotal to the Riders’ success against Essex this season. In their two wins, they outrebounded their opponents 55-36.5, and by 16.5-5.1 on the offensive glass. The Riders rebounded by committee on the defensive end to complete defensive possessions repeatedly. 

However, in Essex’s Trophy win, they found joy on the boards for the first time against the Riders. They pulled down 47 to Leicester’s 38, and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to Leicester’s 11. 

The Riders, as the third best rebounders in the League this season, aren’t accustomed to losing the rebounding battle often, so winning on the glass will be pivotal to their success in this one. 

Where to watch

Tickets are on sale now for the Riders men’s and women’s playoff games at the Mattioli Arena. 

Doors open at 2:15 for a 2:45 women’s tip off, followed by the men’s tip off at 6:45.

READ MORE: Playoff Preview: Leicester Riders vs Sheffield Sharks Game Two

Thanks to the generosity of the Riders’ sponsors at RDL Technologies, Vertu Motors, Torr Waterfield, Jelson Homes and EverythingBranded, the first 1,200 fans through the door will receive a free “Dark Horse” playoff t-shirt. 

Get tickets here!

The game will also be shown live on the Women’s British Basketball League YouTube channel.