Report: Riders fall to Lions

A spirited performance from Rob Paternostro’s Riders wasn’t enough to overcome a clinical London Lions team, who left the Morningside Arena with an 89-79 victory in the British Basketball League Championship.

Tonight’s defeat was Leicester’s second of the season to the league leaders, dropping their record to 7-8. 

Most of the Riders’ success came from beyond the arc where they shot at a 44% clip, largely due to the play of second-unit point guard, Conner Washington. The experienced sharpshooter hit five treys to lead the team with 15 points from the bench.

Washington was ably supported by fellow bench guard Sesan Russell, the new man dropping 13 points after an action-packed second half.

A number of Lions played their part, but big man Conor Morgan was the pick, top-scoring with 19 points after a near-perfect display of shooting, going 87% from the floor.

The opening minutes saw the visitors gain ascendency with clean, incisive play. Early buckets from key men Conor and Matt Morgan gave the Lions an early six-point lead and with the Riders struggling at 1-7 from the field, London looked in charge.

However, industrious play from TJ Lall and a red-hot Washington brought the home side back into the game and got the home fans on their feet.

Lall – who is becoming increasingly important for the Riders with each game – was effective on both ends of the court, making chase down blocks and using his strength to work to the foul line.

Three-ball specialist Washington was the star of the first quarter, knocking down three deep balls, including a catch-and-shoot attempt from a different postcode.

The fast-paced quarter sped to an end, with the scores at 20-20 and Leicester showing plenty of fight.

The second ten minutes began with London turning the heat up on the Riders. Clean jump shots coupled with telescopic offensive rebounding by Josh Sharma pushed the Lions out to their second six-point lead of the night.

The Riders’ effort was present on both ends of the court, but the clean looks they were producing were hitting rim rather than net. Captain Kimbal Mackenzie was all over the court, combining four first-half points with five boards and three assists, but even he couldn’t hold back London’s onslaught.

Getting to the foul line seemingly at will, the Lions opened a commanding double-digit lead, and with the likes of Sam Dekker heating up from the outside, Paternostro’s squad would need to play tough basketball in the second half.

Another picturesque three from Washington and an emphatic fast-break dunk by Miryne Thomas showed that toughness, but the Lions went into the half with a 52-36 lead.

The start of the second 20 was the story of Jaren Holmes versus the Lions. The Riders’ most prolific scorer had the bit between his teeth, draining a pair of threes and slamming home a breakaway dunk to bring the home side back into the game.

Lall continued to hustle hard and Russell’s chemistry with Samuel Idowu was yielding points, but the league leaders managed the contest well, keeping the Riders in a double-digit deficit.

The final stanza started in jubilant fashion for the Riders, Russell and Victor Ndoukou stringing triples before Mackenzie followed suit. When Russell splashed from distance once more, the deficit was down to single figures and the Riders looked to be on a charge.

More deep balls in the final minutes from Washington and Division One prospect Seth Wylie drew cheers from the Riders’ faithful, but more efficient play from London down the stretch gave them the win.

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