Report: Riders fall to Lions in Playoff semi-final

Leicester Riders’ season ended in London, as they fell in the Women’s British Basketball League Playoff semi-finals 95-70 to the London Lions. 

It was a closely fought first half, the Riders taking a seven point lead in the first quarter through hot three point shooting. But the EuroCup champions battled back and took control in the absence of Riders’ captain Mckenzie Johnson, who was injured at the end of the second quarter. 

Riders’ record-breaking leading scorer Taylor O’Brien led the team again with 19 points and 8 rebounds, days after being named to the Team of the Year. She was backed by Jessica Eadsforth-Yates, who went 4-9 from three for 12 points and 5 rebounds. 

A big night for London’s Abby Meyers saw her lead the game with 22 points, as six Lions scored in double digits to book their spot in the Final. Mayers went 9-16 from the field and pulled down 5 boards. 

Red hot Riders start takes first quarter lead

The Riders had a hot start from deep, draining five triples in the opening five minutes to jump out to a 10-17 lead. Sharpshooters Katie Januszewska and Eadsforth-Yates had two each from behind the arc.

Lions’ guard Meyers found lanes to the hoop on the other end to cut into the Riders’ lead with 6 points, London starting 7-7 from two point range. But the hosts started cold from the outside, going 0-7 from three in the first quarter. 

Their first one went down with a minute left, as Shanice Beckford-Norton gave the Lions the lead. This took the lid off, and Katsiaryna Snytsina knocked down another to send the sides into the first quarter break with London leading 22-18. 

Meyers leads London to big lead

The start of the second saw the Riders cool off, and the Lions built their lead to eight. Maya Price hit a long two to force a Riders timeout a minute and a half in.

Johnston ended the cold streak with a corner triple for her first points of the afternoon. She was followed by O’Brien, who began her patented attacks of the rim to get to the foul line and keep the scoreboard ticking over for Leicester. 

Despite O’Brien’s play, the Riders’ deficit grew thanks to the red hot hand of Meyers, who brought her game tally to 11 with a three. It was a 15 point Lions lead with 3:52 left in the half. 

Riders run brings visitors back into it

An Erin Powell three, followed by an O’Brien runner, breathed life back into the Riders. With under two minutes left in the half, O’Brien pulled up and banked in a triple, cutting the deficit to single digits and forcing a London timeout. 

The Riders, rolling, put the ball in the hands of Januszewska, who logged her 7th points to further make inroads. 

Late London buckets from Snytsina and Meyers made it 48-38 at the break, the Riders in touching distance. But Johnston took an elbow to the face as the half closed, seeing her out for the game.

Lions rebuild lead out of the half

A breathless start to the second half saw a Marrissa Hamilton and-one play met by back-to-back threes from Holly Winterburn, as the Lions edged ahead. Savannah Wilkinson drained her first three of the game with 6:25 on the clock, for her 13th points and giving the Lions an 18 point lead. 

The Riders’ defence stood strong, keeping the hosts to two points in three minutes, but with Johnston on the sidelines struggled to generate offence. 

O’Brien, as she did in the second, continued to get to the foul line on her drives to the rim. She made it 17 points on the game, making the score 70-50. Shahd Abboud followed with a spin move from the midrange to trigger a Lions timeout. 

To end the third, Faye Endean hit from close to make it 72-52 with one quarter to play. 

London sees the game out

Abboud got the fourth underway with a smooth fake spin, laying in a two at the rim. In response, Beckford-Norton scored two straight buckets to seize back control for the hosts. 

Januszewska stayed hot, draining her third three of the game as the Riders kept chipping away. Eadsforth-Yates went back-to-back from three to make it 12 on the night from the British guard. 

Endean made the last bucket of the night from the foul line however, and the Lions won the fourth 23-16 to see it out.