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Riders fall to Phoenix at the buzzer

Kahron Ross capped off his 29 points with a game-winning bucket, draining a three at the death to beat the Riders. They were his 19th points of the fourth quarter, as he and Geno Crandall battled in the clutch. Crandall and Corey Johnson had 21 each in the game, in another tough late loss, while Ross and Jalen Hayes combined for 51 points for Cheshire. 

After hectic back-to-back fixtures against the Wolves last weekend, with both games decided by the final shot, the Riders were thrown straight back into the fire with another intense finale. The game ran many parallels to last Sunday’s overtime thriller, with the Riders coming back down big in the fourth to take the lead late, despite losing at the buzzer for the second straight game. 

Crandall had eight in the fourth as he led the Riders into the lead with 11 seconds on the clock, after being down seven with five minutes left. He accompanied his 21 points with eight assists, seven rebounds, and two steals, in a stat sheet stuffing performance. Johnson hit five of six three-point attempts as the Riders shot 50% from deep, but ultimately fell just short as the Phoenix caught fire late. Cheshire, who were shooting 27.6% from deep coming into the encounter, made all five of their threes in the final quarter, going 9/15 from the field. 

The Riders started out cooking offensively, and were injected with a huge momentum boost midway through the first quarter through a monster dunk by Lee. He received the ball in the paint off a baseline inbound by Crandall, before rising straight up and throwing it down one-handed over Kyle Carey.

Leicester would steal the ball on both of the next two defensive possessions, and Lee would score six straight, as the Riders went on an 11-0 run early to earn some separation from their opponents. Lee, Johnson and Mustafa Heron had eighteen of Leicesters 26 points in the quarter, as they entered the second up 10. 

The teams traded buckets to start the second quarter, as the Riders maintained their lead. They led by as many as 15, however the Phoenix, led by Jalen Hayes, climbed back into the tie. They went on a 9-0 run of their own at the end of the second, with a bucket from Hayes tying the game, as he scored his 16th points of the half. The Cheshire surge meant the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the score tied at 42. 

To start the second half, Johnson began to catch fire. He drained two threes on his way to eight points in the first three minutes, keeping the Riders in contention. As the quarter reached the midway point, Crandall began to impose himself on the points column. He had nine in the third, including a three to take the lead, helping his team to enter the final quarter up four. 

To start the fourth, the Phoenix jumped out hot, starting with a 13-2 run. Ross began to cook from distance, making three shots from deep to give his team the lead. With the Riders down seven, Crandall, once again, got the Riders into their stride, scoring eight points late to lead his team back into the game. His free-throws with 20 seconds on the clock cut the Phoenix lead to one, setting up another dramatic finish. 

The Riders were gifted a chance to take the lead, with the Phoenix failing to inbound the ball within five seconds. Crandall received the ball in the backcourt, before taking the ball into the teeth of the defence and kicking the ball out to William Lee, who was fouled on a jump shot with 10 seconds to go. Lee confidently knocked down both his shots to give Leicester the lead late. 

With just seconds remaining, Cheshire advanced the ball up the floor via Mike McCall, who drove hard at the rim before kicking the ball out to the hot hand of Ross. Ross got the shot up over the closeout of Crandall, and nailed the shot from the left-wing to win the game for the Phoenix.

The loss for Riders takes their record to 14-3, still best in the BBL Championship. They head up North to play the second-placed Newcastle Eagles, in the hopes of further solidifying their place at the top of the league. 

Phoenix

Ross 29, Hayes, 22, McCall 17, Bryan-Amaning 11, Lull 8, Gordon 4, Carey 2

Riders

Crandall 21, Johnson 21, Nelson-Henry 13, Washington 11, Heron 9, Lee 8, Anderson 5, Fraser 2, Falzon 1