The Riders fell out of the Women’s British Basketball League Trophy, losing to the Essex Rebels 84-70 on the road.
Leicester fell into a 17-point hole early after a slow start, and were down 23 to start the final quarter.
They came storming back into it, cutting the deficit to six with 3:39 left after a three-point explosion from Taylor O’Brien. But it was too little, too late, and the Rebels knocked down late free throws to progress to the semi-final.
Sam Ashby led the Riders’ scoring with 21 points after putting up 14 in the first half, backed by Mckenzie Johnston’s 18 and O’Brien’s 15. O’Brien hit five threes in the fourth quarter to spark the comeback.
Katherine Tudor’s monster third quarter meant she led the game with 24 points. The Rebels cooked from deep, shooting 50% from three on the game.
Ashby got straight to work for Leicester from the tip, attacking the hoop on the team’s first three possessions for a return of four points. Ashby scored the Riders’ first six, getting to the line with 7:24 left to tie the game.
Despite the GB international’s play, it was Essex who took the early initiative. Rebel’s star guard Katherine Tudor drained the team’s second three of the game to make it 14-6.
It was quickly 19-8 with 4:15 left in the first, forcing Head Coach Ben Stanley to call his first timeout. But the Riders had no answer for the Rebels’ physically inside throughout the first. Their opponents scored 20 points in the paint and led 31-14 after one.
Jessica Eadsforth-Yates got the second quarter going for Leicester with a triple from the top of the arc. Ashby followed up from the same spot before nailing another on the next play as the Riders began to chip into the deficit.
But Essex hit back, and burst back out to a 20 point lead. Megan Haines’ three for her 11th points capped off an 8-0 run with 4:49 remaining in the half.
It was Leicester’s captain, Johnston, who led the charge going into the break. She scored eight in the second quarter, and cut it to a 13-point game after Katie Januszewska blocked Claire Paxton’s three-point attempt.
The final score of the half was Essex’s Dayzsha Rogan pulling up from midrange, and the sides entered the locker rooms with the hosts up 48-33.
Johnston got right back to it in the third, pulling up in the lane to make the first basket of the second half. But a red-hot Rebels team kept gunning from deep, Tudor hitting three triples in as many minutes.
Another three from Tudor with 3:42 left in the third rebuilt their advantage to 20. Johnston kept battling, scoring another eight points to bring her game tally to 16, but turnovers cost the Riders throughout the quarter, keeping the Rebels out of reach.
Rogan finished the quarter at the foul line, making it 71-48.
The Riders battled back in the final quarter, Taylor O’Brien connecting from deep to cut the deficit to 15. She fired again with 6”30 remaining, making the score 72-59.
O’Brien caught fire, knocking down her third triple of the period with 4:40 left in the game to bring the score to 75-65. Johnston then drove to the hole and made it a single-digit affair for the first time since the first quarter.
O’Brien pulled up from deep again and cut it to six, forcing an Essex timeout with 3:39 remaining.
But the timeout stalled the Riders offence, and the Rebels had enough to hang on in the closing stages by making their free-throws.
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