Riders crowned BBL Cup Champions

Leicester Riders were crowned 2022 BBL Cup winners with a 83-69 win against the Manchester Giants. Geno Crandall was named Final MVP, after he put up 26 points, six rebounds and five assists in a monumental effort. 

Despite two of the competition’s top three offences clashing head to head, a low scoring game earned Leicester their first BBL Cup win since 2014. The Riders entered the tie as the BBL Cup’s best defence, and showcased their prowess by holding their opponents to 38.5% shooting. 

Texas Southern graduate Tyrik Armstrong led a valiant Giants effort with 18 points and four assists. Manchester lost an early advantage in the second quarter, and despite cutting it close in the final stages, could not climb back into the game. 

With the team’s trading blows to start the game, it was the Giants who had the best of the early running, taking a nine point lead lead by six from GB captain Dan Clark. Marc Loving steered Leicester through their difficult offensive start with seven points in the first quarter, pulling up from everywhere on the court. 

The Ohio state graduate’s play kick started a 6-2 Riders run to end the period, which Manchester’s Armstrong concluded with a pair of free-throws to make it 20-15 in his team’s favour. 

The Riders continued their fightback in the second, taking their first lead of the game courtesy of Crandall’s midrange jumpshot. Last season’s BBL MVP took the roof off the building on the following play, taking flight to block Armstrong’s layup. 

Crandall blew wind into the Riders’ sails, scoring 12 in the quarter to stretch the lead. His dazzling display led Leicester on a 30-8 second quarter performance. The half ended fittingly, with captain Darien Nelson-Henry beating the buzzer to put the Riders up 45-26. 

Crandall picked up in the second half where he left off in the first, snatching the ball from Armstrong and laying the ball in for two. The quarter exploded into life after five minutes, with the teams trading baskets back and forth. The Giants climbed back into contention, with Jordan Whelan’s three cutting the game to nine. 

In response, Loving went to work down low, twisting and turning against Armstrong before hitting a jump shot fading away for an and-one play. Loving scored four straight to reestbalish the Riders advantage, getting to the line again on the next play after a Zach Jackson steal. 

With under a minute remaining, Manchester’s GB wing Will Saunders picked up his second technical foul out of frustration, seeing him ejected from the game. Two quick scores in the final seconds from both teams meant the sides entered the final stanza with the score 60-51, the game on a knife edge. 

The sides bolted out the gate in the fourth, with momentum swinging back and forth at a tremendous pace. Crandall once again took the reigns, scoring tightly contested shots for six points in the first five minutes of the period. Kimbal Mackenzie came up with two huge threes after a Giants 5-0 run to keep Manchester at arm’s length, and Mackenzie’s string of late free-throws sealed the Riders’ fourth BBL Cup. 

Riders: Crandall 26, Mackenzie 15, Loving 12, Jackson 9, Whelan 6, Nelson-Henry 4, Walker 4, Adekoya 4, Washington 3, Wild, Walshe, Jordan

Giants: Armstrong 18, Artison 12, Anderson 9, Steel 9, Clark 8, Whelan 7, Lewis 4, Hudson 2, Saunders, Nwagboso, Ulph, Jones