Report: Riders fall to Eagles

A Friday night filled with high drama in the British Basketball League Championship saw the Riders fall 95-90 to the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

In a fiercely contested game, accurate shooting beyond the arc from the home team made the difference in the Vertu Motos Arena, helping them secure their first win in nearly a month.

The Riders drop to 4-3 on the season but can take heart from a spirited performance on the road.

High-flying forward Miryne Thomas had his best performance in a Riders uniform, dropping 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to earn his first BBL double-double.

The point guard tandem of Xavier Pinson and Kimbal Mackenzie also made a significant impression on the stat sheet, combining for 35 points and seven assists.

Pinson, who has been deadly accurate from deep this season, went five-for-seven from deep and remains near the top of the league for three-point percentage.

The Eagles’ best showing came from combo-guard Rickey McGill, who despite only hitting one three-pointer coming into the game, sunk six shots from downtown.

McGill totalled 31 points on the night and earned ‘Player of the Game’ honours.

In a sight that is becoming pleasingly familiar this season, scoring began with Thomas, who hit from deep after fine ball movement by the Riders.

The Eagles answered back quickly with an emphatic flush from Malcolm Delpeche, but a well-timed block by Braelen Bridges on the next defensive set sparked a 12-2 Riders run dominated by the three ball.

A second bucket from range from Thomas and back-to-back triples by Pinson saw the visitors hit four threes in four minutes, and with Jordan Johnson in foul trouble, the Riders looked comfortable.

Paternostro’s young squad hit a cold snap midway through the half however, allowing the Eagles to pull themselves back into the game.

After a couple of unexpected delays, due to a referee suffering an injury and Will Neighbour being ejected for collecting technical and unsportsmanlike fouls, the home side took their first lead on the back of a Tajh Green three.

A hotly contested game boiled over to end the first half, resulting in technical and unsportsmanlike fouls for Caleb Asberry and Thomas respectively, plus a second ejection for the Eagles, who had Green leave the court after a hard foul on Asberry.

Once the arena was calmed and play resumed, strong play on the inside from Bridges and a pair of Riders’ threes saw them retake the lead, 43-42 the halftime score.

Coming out of the break strong, Newcastle pulled out to a five-point lead, but an unbelievable hustle play from Jaren Holmes – stopping a fast break with a steal – galvanised the Riders and they closed the gap with a pair of three-pointers.

Nice layups from Holmes and Sam Idowu kept the Eagles defence honest, but a three-point efficiency of 55%, including five deep balls by McGill, propelled them to a seven-point lead heading into the closing stanza.

A heavy tension filled the arena heading into the fourth, ramped up by five quick points by the Riders.

Captain Mackenzie was putting the team on his back, cleverly drawing a pair of offensive fouls and taking advantage with a corner three.

Back fired the Eagles, an ‘and one’ play by Johnson taking him over 20 points, and once McGill hit yet another three, Newcastle were up by eight with four minutes left.

Holmes’ first three of the night, a beautiful right-hand layup from Thomas and a nasty step back three by Pinson showed the Riders’ resilience, but despite taking it down to the final shot, Newcastle held on for victory.

The Riders return to action on Thursday, hosting the Surrey Scorchers.

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