The Riders fell to the Newcastle Eagles on the road 92-85 in the first of a weekend doubleheader against the North Easterners.
They held a 20-point lead in the first, but the Eagles caught hot form in the second half to come back and win it.
Zach Jackson led the Riders with 18 points and scored four quick points in the fourth to cut the game to one in an attempt at a comeback. However, the Eagles found enough for a late run to grow their lead.
Jackson and Patrick Whelan hit threes in the final minute to give themselves a chance at the death, and the Riders forced an eight-second violation for a chance to cut it to one. But the Eagles got over the line in the dying seconds after free throws from Kyle Johnson.
For Newcastle, Johnson led the game with 21 points and seven rebounds, spearheading the charge in the third quarter. The win is vital for them as they fight for the final playoff spot in the BBL Championship.
The Eagles’ Hassan French made the early headlines, scoring 10 of his team’s first 13 points to keep the scores even. The Riders’ edged the lead, however, led by GB center Aaron Menzies.
Menzies scored seven in seven minutes, causing a delay after almost bringing the rim down on a ferocious slam.
Following the stoppage, the Riders broke out to a nine-point lead with a 7-0 run. Justin Gordon responded with a pair of free throws for Newcastle, which concluded the quarter with the score 23-16.
The Riders rode their momentum into the second period, starting with a 12-1 run led by three threes from young star Blake Bowman. Bowman went off for his career-high scoring tally with 12 in the second quarter, as the Riders blew the game wide open.
A no-look bounce pass from Kimbal Mackenzie to Darien Nelson-Henry concluded the Riders’ explosive offensive effort for the first half, as they entered the locker rooms up 52-35.
The Eagles started the more positive of the sides in the second half, bringing the score back to 13 after five minutes. They continued their run, and Jermel Kennedy hit back-to-back threes to make it a six-point game with two minutes remaining in the third.
Javion Hamlet concluded the quarter with a layup inside, making it 72-69 in the Riders’ favour going into the fourth.
Newcastle took their first lead of the game since the first quarter to start the fourth, as David Cohn went coast to coast to lay in a two. They stretched it to six points following a Kennedy three shortly after.
The Riders attempted a comeback through the hands of Jackson, but late Riders turnovers saw the Eagles’ lead grow.
Jackson and Whelan scored two quick threes to get back into contention in the final minute. But the Eagles saw out the win in the closing seconds after Johnson’s free throws.
The Riders return to action on Sunday for the home leg of their weekend doubleheader, once again facing the Eagles.
The game’s tip-off is at 4pm and marks the beginning of a four-game home stretch. Get your tickets here.