Saturday night saw the Riders fall to a 94-80 defeat in Manchester against the Giants in the British Basketball League Championship.
Rob Paternostro’s young squad now sit at 4-2 after battling through an attritional two games in two days.
Talented guards Xavier Pinson and Caleb Asberry top-scored for the Riders with 15 points each, and TJ Lall was close to a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Giants relied on a big second half from former Riders forward Jamell Anderson, who dropped 19 points, as well as speedy guard Jalen Harris’ 20 points on 57% shooting.
The first half began in smooth fashion, Pinson slicing through the Giants’ D to net the opening points of the game.
Manchester soon established themselves in the game though, and with Jalen Harris’ effective scoring countering Pinson’s influential start, they went bucket for bucket with the Riders.
Big man Legend Robertin was absent for the home team, so Mo Walker was introduced early to take advantage of the Giants’ lack of size inside.
The 6’10” Canadian helped himself to four points in four minutes, only missing on one of his shots.
A confident Caleb Asberry also contributed with a pair of threes, but the Riders entered the second quarter 28-27 down.
The second ten didn’t offer much chance, both teams going back and forth in an even contest.
The Giants were dominant on the offensive glass, pulling down 11 OR’s, but the tenacious Riders’ defence held Manchester to just six second-chance points.
Lall provided 17 high-quality minutes off the bench, dropping eight points as well as leading the Riders’ rebounding effort with six.
Leicester uncharacteristically struggled from the free throw line, only hitting at a 53% clip, but a spectacular dunk from Pinson and solid defence kept the score level at 46 going into the half-time break.
The second half started with an early blitz from the Giants. Former Rider Evan Walshe led the way with his signature coast-to-coast scoring.
The Riders, combating fatigue after two games in two days, looked to the bench to keep within striking distance, but things weren’t quite clicking on the offensive side of the court.
A cultured Lall three from the corner just before the fourth quarter buzzer gave the Riders hope, but they had a mountain to overcome down by double-digits.
The Riders hit the pine hard at the start of the fourth, responding to Coach Paternostro’s words perfectly, an Asberry deep ball bringing them within seven points.
Once Pinson put a nasty cross on the Giants’ defence and finished in close, the comeback was on.
A dismissive block from Asberry rocked the Giants with five minutes remaining, but the ball wouldn’t roll the Riders’ way.
Despite a long three-pointer from Pinson and a beautiful ‘and one’ play off an inbound from Asberry, the Giants were able to hold on, securing their second victory of the season.
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