A superb fourth quarter by the Riders fired them to a 102-81 British Basketball League Championship victory over the Plymouth City Patriots.
The contest was much closer than the final score suggests as Rob Paternostro’s squad were made to work hard by a determined Patriots side, who remain at the foot of the championship standings.
The home side dropped 33 points in the final ten minutes, heating up from three-point range to finish the game with a decent 37% from deep.
Led by captain Kimbal Mackenzie (who had a quiet scoring game with six points but distributed 11 assists), the Riders played excellent team basketball, ending the night boasting 24 dishes.
There were several solid performances, but Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen and Samuel Idowu stole the show, making 45 points between them with Idowu putting up yet another double-double.
Athletic big man Miryne Thomas also had a good game, especially from beyond the arc, draining a hot four from five on his way to 19 points, scoring 14 in the final quarter.
Paul James’ Patriots side showed plenty of positive flashes throughout the game and won on the offensive glass, pulling down 18 to the Riders’ seven.
Star man Jacob Wiley hit 22 and the speedy TJ Atwood scored 17, but the visitors were crippled by poor accuracy from the free throw line, hitting just 58% from the line.
An aggressive start to the game by the Riders saw a swell of scoring early on, started by Allen with a silky-smooth reverse layup. Mo Walker then hit an ‘and one’ play after a lovely dish from Mackenzie and – following a transition three from ‘Buckets’ – Leicester had seven points in two minutes.
The Riders were working hard to utilize their size inside, but the Patriots did a good job of keeping pace, showing fast hands-on defence and tenacity on the offensive boards, totalling ten offensive rebounds in the first half.
It wasn’t long before the familiar sight of a scoring run from Idowu had the home supporters cheering, the bench big man dropping an impressive 11 points in seven first-half minutes.
The power forward was dominant on both sides of the arc, hitting turnaround jumpers in close and stretching the floor with pick-and-slide splashes from deep.
The game then entered a somewhat messy period as both sides engaged in numerous scrambles below the rim.
Leicester kept a small lead going into the second quarter, narrowed down to three points following a Wiley fast break dunk.
The opening minutes of the second were dictated by the visitors, who demonstrated excellent team basketball to ride a 13-0 scoring run.
Danger-man Wiley was starting to heat up, showing his skills in close with powerful finishes and accurate jump shots.
The Riders had to stop the bleeding, and a typically impassioned timeout from Paternostro did the trick, prompting Allen to start the mini comeback with an acrobatic, falling layup while under heavy pressure.
TJ Lall followed suit with a tricky finish of his own, and when Jaren Holmes slammed home a breakaway dunk following a nice steal, the Riders were back level.
The teams went bucket-for-bucket as the half drew to a close, but increased defensive pressure exerted by the home side caused Plymouth to cool down, allowing the Riders to edge ahead.
Duke Shelton threw his weight around in the paint to earn multiple trips to the line, and after a clutch corner three by Lall, Leicester found themselves five points in front, a leading margin they maintained to go into the locker rooms 48-43 to the good.
The second 20 couldn’t have started any differently than the first as both teams struggled to get into an offensive rhythm, perpetuated by a rare Mackenzie turnover.
Holmes didn’t get the memo though, hitting a pair of backdoor layups to keep the Riders ahead by five, answered by a buzzer-beating fadeaway by shooting guard Cameron Copeland.
A quiet phase of missed shots and fouling followed, ended by a stop and splash three from Thomas which sparked Idowu into action again.
The big American matched Thomas’ deep ball before finishing a nasty Holmes alley-oop with a one-handed jam.
Back came the Patriots again, Wiley hitting four quick points including a monstrous alley-oop slam.
Four points from Mackenzie – his first of the night – ended the third quarter, giving his side a 69-64 lead going into the final stanza and with everything to play for.
The Riders began the fourth perfectly, relaxing the Mattioli Arena with four quick points to make it a nine-point ball game.
Atwood’s first trey of the game was matched by Thomas, and Leicester looked in good shape for another home win.
Lall soon put a punctuation mark on the ever-growing lead, dropping a corner three despite being fouled for a spectacular four-point play.
The Riders were now taking over the game, Thomas dropping a heat-check triple which preceded ‘Buckets’ Allen’s 23rd point of the night.
Paternostro’s squad were flowing, and despite some splash plays from the visitors, they rode the double-digit lead for the final two minutes to send the Riders’ faithful home happy.