The Riders improved to 4-0 in the Women’s British Basketball League Championship, taking an 83-75 overtime home win against the Nottingham Wildcats.
Taylor O’Brien led the team with her second straight 20-point performance, leading the game with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. She was backed by an 18-point double-double from Sam Ashby, who grabbed 10 rebounds in a red-hot overtime performance.
The so-far winless Wildcats put up a heroic fight against the table-topping Riders, pushing them all the way after a hot start. 22 from Jessica Wayne led the team, as the visitors shot 44% from three to come close to an upset win.
Starting off 6-0, Nottingham took an early surprise lead led by seven from 6’3” center Brooke Bjelko. The Riders shot 27% from the field in the first but trailed only by a possession after Elise Tweeidie’s free throw to end the quarter.
The visitors stretched their lead in the second, making it double-digits thanks to a layup inside from American Wayne. Leicester’s two for 13 shooting from deep dug their first half hole, but Taylor O’Brien found form to end the second quarter to keep the hosts in touch.
O’Brien had four points and a steal in the final two minutes to bring her game tally to nine, and making the score 28-39 going into the locker rooms.
She continued her dominance in the third, scoring 11 in the quarter as the Riders attempted to chip into the deficit. Driving inside, her and-one play cut it to a four-point game with two minutes left.
Charnwood graduate Katie Januszewska got on the scoreboard to follow up her teammates, scoring five quick points and snatching the lead for the first time since the opening quarter. The Riders held the Wildcats to a scoreless final seven minutes of the third to lead by four with one to play.
Shahd Abboud, upon her return from injury, led the Riders out the gate in the fourth with two quick buckets. They stamped their authority in the final period of play, building a solid foundation to see the game out from. Abboud hit a three with four minutes gone to make it an eight-point Leicester lead.
Nottingham hit big shots throughout to keep it competitive, and cut it to a one-point game after a three from Wayne with 1:45 left to play. After a back-and-forth exchange, Mari Stewart drained another triple which tied it up with nine seconds remaining.
Ashby couldn’t connect on the would-be game-winner, and the tie went to overtime.
She took over the overtime period with back-to-back threes to amend for the miss, building a two-possession lead for the Riders to defend. The GB international’s second triple with 2:30 to go proved to be the final score before the fixture became a free-throw-shooting affair.
Jessica Eadsforth-Yates and Ashby hit their foul shots to end the game, winning it in overtime.
The Riders are back in action next week, hitting the road to take on last season’s quadruple-winning London Lions on Sunday.