The Riders fell just short in the BBL Playoff Final, losing 88-80 to the London Lions.
A fourth-quarter comeback gave the Riders a chance to win it late, but Marc Loving’s three to cut the game to two fell heartbreakingly short, and the Lions saw out the win.
Zach Jackson went off for 20 points and nine rebounds, giving everything to keep his team in it. He was backed by Carrington Love’s 17 points and seven rebounds, the American guard running the Riders’ offence with electric energy.
It was not to be for Leicester, however, who went 5-24 from three and 21-37 from the free throw line in the loss. Despite the off-shooting night, the Riders aggressive play kept them in contention until late, showing heart in the face of adversity.
London’s Jordan Taylor was named Final MVP, putting up 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
In his final game before retirement, Riders’ captain Darien Nelson-Henry led the out the gates for their first two scores. It was a tightly contested start to the game, but the Lions edged out to and advantage towards the end of the first.
Tarik Phillp’s three made it 22-14 London after one, his eight points off the bench leading the game.
The Riders fought back to start the second. Carrington Love pulled the strings, finding open shots for his teammates and bagging four points in three minutes.
But London responded to carve out their biggest lead of the game. They found their way to the rim on four straight possessions to go up 11.
Continuing to play aggressively, the Riders found their way to the free-throw line to remain in contention. They took 19 in the first half to the Lions’ nine, but made only 11. They were also one for eight from three by halftime. Leicester’s shooting in the first half was a major contributor to their deficit.
But they were down only eight, despite finding themselves off the mark shooting the ball. Kimbal Mackenzie hit a fadeaway at the buzzer to jolt momentum into the team going into the locker rooms.
The Riders could not make inroads in the third quarter, but their timely responses to Lions’ buckets kept them in touching distance going into the fourth. They were down 15 midway through the third, but back-to-back buckets from Carrington Love and Zach Jackson cut into their deficit.
London hit back to close the third, rebuilding their advantage to 14 by the buzzer. Jordan Taylor led the team with 11 points and six assists with one to play.
Scoring the first seven in the fourth quarter, the Riders showed heart to make it a game. Five of those points came from the free throw line as Leicester attacked the teeth of London’s defence.
Midway through the fourth, the teams traded three-point bombs. London had the edge from deep, winning the battle from three to get back out to an 11-point lead.
Leicester continued to show heart. They commenced a 9-3 run to come steaming back, cutting it to five with a minute left. Loving had a chance to cut it to one possession, but his three with 40 seconds left rolled around the hoop and out.
Phillip hit the subsequent free throws, winning it for London.
The game concluded the Riders 2022/23 season. Thank you all for your tremendous support.