The Riders claimed their first victory of the 2023/24 British Basketball Championship with an 88-81 defeat of the Plymouth Patriots.
An all-action fourth quarter, that saw Rob Paternostro’s men outscore their opponents 29-16, secured the win over a Plymouth team that led by nine points at halftime.
TJ Lall dropped a team-high 14 points for the Riders in an efficient display which saw him hit 66% from the field.
The Ontario native was joined in double figures by Xavier Pinson, Jaren Holmes and Braelen Bridges as the Riders’ showed their ability to spread the scoring.
A particularly pleasing aspect of Leicester’s win was their hustle on the boards, limiting the visitors to just eight offensive rebounds.
The Patriots did put up a stern test with some promising performances – TJ Atwood scoring 20 in the first half alone.
But Leicester responded well in the second half, shutting Atwood’s offense down to help towards a well-earned victory.
An end-to-end first half started well for the Riders, who utilised quick ball movement to create openings in the paint.
Bridges and Lall benefitted early, both dropping five points in the first quarter which pushed the Riders into an 18-17 lead.
Supported by a hard-working Samuel Idowu and the debuting Caleb Asberry off the bench, Leicester entered the second quarter looking to build on their narrow lead.
Despite showing a marked improvement on the defensive glass, limiting Plymouth to just a couple of offensive rebounds, an inspired ten-minute spell by the Patriots’ Atwood helped them to build a lead.
Atwood, who dropped 17 points in round one, finished the first half with six rebounds and four assists to accompany his 20 points.
A crucial three-pointer by Holmes kept the Riders within touching distance, swiftly followed by a deep three from long ball specialist, Asberry.
The half ended with the Patriots 52-43 to the good – a buzzer-beater from guard, Mason Faulkner giving Plymouth a nine-point lead.
Starting the second half as he did the first, Bridges dropped the Riders’ first bucket, igniting an 8-2 run after good hustle on both ends of the floor.
A timely three from Miryne Thomas kept the Riders within striking distance before the home team bridged the gap through multiple trips to the foul line.
The third quarter ended with Leicester facing a 6-point deficit but with their tails up heading into the final ten.
The fourth saw the Riders show the home fans what they can produce in the clutch.
Buckets from Asberry, Idowu and the agile Pinson pushed Paternostro’s team to a 15-3 surge, wiping out the Patriots’ lead and giving the home side a small cushion.
The game hurtled towards an exciting finish full of back-and-forth action, with the Riders able to keep the lead on the back of fearless play by captain, Kimbal Mackenzie.
Next Saturday, the Riders take on their first road trip of the season, travelling to Bristol to face the 1-1 Flyers.
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