The Riders improved their record to 3-1 on the season following a pulsating 92-85 win over the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.
In a game that entertained fans inside the Vertu Motos Arena from start to finish, Leicester went toe-to-toe with their Northern rivals, matching them on the boards and on the fast break.
Athletic forward Miryne Thomas took ‘Player of the Game’ honours, dropping 17 points in spectacular fashion with eye-catching dunks and clutch three-pointers.
Thomas was ably supported by Braelen Bridges and Jaren Holmes, who put up 15 points each – Bridges hitting 100% from the field.
Kimbal Mackenzie, and frontcourt rock Samuel Idowu brought intensity from the bench, Riders’ captain scoring 16 crucial points and Idowu proving to be a handful at both ends of the court.
The 6’8” big man made three blocks in the late stages of the game, helping to throw the Eagles off rhythm each time they looked like making a run.
Free-scoring guard Jordan Johnson was the top scorer for the home side, knocking down 22 points, aided by a strong 17 from high-flyer Tajh Green.
The game started in frenetic fashion, with the Riders finding success inside and on the fast break. Despite strong on-ball defence from the Eagles, Bridges and Thomas took charge, finding early success on their way to a combined 13 first-half points.
Midway through the first, Thomas sent the visiting supporters into raptures with a highlight reel dunk, fed by a bullet pass from Caleb Asberry.
The high-quality first quarter came to a close with the teams level on points, Mackenzie making it 21 apiece with a clutch buzzer-beater.
An excellent second quarter for the Riders started with a spectacular layup from the captain, capitalising on two offensive rebounds by Leicester’s frontcourt.
With Xavier Pinson injecting pace into the game and TJ Lall knocking down their first three of the night from the corner, the Riders pulled out a deserved five-point lead.
Green wowed the home fans with a huge putback dunk and the dangerous Johnson hit ten points for the Eagles, but Leicester’s squad depth was proving to be the difference.
20 points from the bench helped the visitors go into halftime with a 42-37 lead after an exciting first half.
Riders hit the ground running in the third, Thomas rising high for a seismic slam to extend the lead, before dropping beyond the arc and stroking a three from deep.
As expected in the pre-game build-up, the teams were going bucket-for-bucket.
Leicester’s aggressive play and crisp passing pushed them to the first double-digit lead of the night, and they headed into the final 15 minutes 59-49 to the good.
But the Eagles showed fight and stayed in touch, proving that they should be near the top of the standings come playoff time.
A fast-break three by Johnson put the home side into a 65-64 lead, which they took into the fourth quarter.
The final ten began in the same vein as every other quarter – with a big play from Thomas, who drained a corner three.
With the game finely poised at 69 each, Caleb Asberry made the defensive play of the season so far, chasing down an Eagles fast break before rising highest to make a block against the backboard.
This energised the Riders to a late four-point lead, but the Eagles kept pegging them back.
A dagger of a three from Holmes gave Leicester an 81-78 lead, maintained by a dominant block from defensive wall, Idowu.
The gap rose to six following an Idowu bucket from beyond the arc and a strong ‘and one’ play by Holmes.
Intelligent play from the experienced Mackenzie carried the Riders in the final minute, and they travel South with a hard earned early-season victory.
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