The Riders fell in a heartbreaker to the Caledonia Gladiators, losing 84-83 on the road.
Clifton Moore Jr. won it with two seconds remaining for the hosts, after Kimbal Mackenzie put the Riders up one just five seconds prior. Mackenzie had a chance to win it on the buzzer but missed his effort as Leicester fell just short.
Blake Bowman’s career night led the Riders, the athletic forward driving his team’s charge back into the game after falling down double digits in the third. He finished with 15 points, and was backed by Xavier Pinson’s 14 points following his 10 point fourth quarter.
It was former Rider Patrick Whelan who led the game with 24. He hit two huge threes in the clutch which kept his team alive.
The sides wasted no time exchanging blows from the tip-off, in a closely fought game throughout. All five Gladiators got on the board within five minutes, but the Riders found offensive responses to remain within a possession early.
The hosts found separation in the first, led by Whelan who topped the game’s scoring with seven to build a lead as big as eight points. But a 10-0 run, highlighted by Conner Washington’s four-point play from the corner, meant the Riders led after one.
Sam Idowu, building off his four-point first quarter, lifted the Riders’ bench to their feet to start the second with a monster two-handed slam off the dribble. Washington continued to roll back the clock, hitting two threes in five minutes as the Riders edged ahead.
The teams fought tooth and nail until the half, the Riders never trailing throughout the second period. Caledonia’s Moore Jr. ended it with a jumper at the buzzer, tying it up at 44.
The Gladiators came out of the half with the hot hands, starting 14-6 to put the Riders down eight once again. They extended their lead throughout the third: Lukas Palyza fifth three from five attempts made it a double-digit advantage with 3:16 left.
Once again, the Riders battled back, cutting it to four after a Bowman breakaway layup. After a Gladiators response, Bowman then found the ball in his hands at the buzzer, fading away for two to make it 63-67 with one to play.
The young Brit continued to make his mark in the fourth, throwing down an electrifying fast break jam to get the final period underway. After a cagey few minutes with both sides struggling to find the basket, Caleb Asberry putback Jaren Holmes’ miss to tie it up.
Pinson followed up his teammate with a tough fadeaway look from the corner, making it 72-69 to the Riders with five remaining. In a back-and-forth finale, the Chicago-born guard came up big, getting to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions to keep the Riders ahead.
With two and a half minutes remaining, Pinson dropped off a pocked pass to big man Mo Walker, who finished inside for two to make it a three point Leicester lead. He continued his dominance a minute later, weaving to the rim and finishing a lefty layup over the defence.
Whelan hit back, nailing back-to-back threes to give the Gladiators a one point edge with 30 seconds on the clock.
His former teammate Mackenzie came up huge in the clutch. He came up with an offensive board from a Pinson miss, dribbling out the shot clock before pulling up and draining a midrange jumper with seven seconds left.
Moore Jr had a response, rising with a jump hook which found the bottom of the net, putting the hosts up one with two seconds remaining. Mackenzie had a shot to win it, but it fell short and Caledonia took the win.
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