The Riders fell out of the BBL Trophy at the quarter-final stage, losing 79-78 to the Sheffield Sharks.
The Riders had the chance to win it on the buzzer, but Zach Jackson’s turnaround jumper did not find the net, following an inspired 10 point quarter from the American.
Jackson finished the game with a team-high 18 points and five rebounds, shooting 58% from the field. He came up with big baskets down the stretch to keep Leicester in the tie, but the Riders ultimately fell short.
A 4-23 shooting night from three ultimately cost the Riders, who could not find their deep ball throughout. They also shot just 73% from the free-throw line and will rue missed opportunities for easy points.
Kipper Nichols led the game with 19 points, scoring four points late and grabbing the game-sealing rebound. The Sharks built off an emphatic 15 point first half from bennet Koch, laying the foundation for a rare win in Leicester.
Sheffield started hot, through the hands of Koch, who scored 10 points in the opening five minutes. Koch went five for five from the field before a well-earned rest midway through the first.
Despite the big man’s play, the Riders hung in the game, matching Sheffield’s scoring through the period. Marc Loving led the team with seven, but a 5-0 run in the closing minutes gave the Sharks a 26-20 lead.
The Riders hit back to start the second, as Carrington Love, inserted into the starting lineup in Patrick Whelan’s absence, scored three quick ones to cut the game to a score. A Jubril Adekoya layup two minutes into the quarter then tied the game.
Koch, checking back into the game, maintained his hot hand, scoring four more points for Sheffield to edge his side back ahead. But Leicester maintained their newfound momentum, snatching their first lead late in the half.
The Riders’ defence locked up Sheffield in the second quarter, holding them to just eight points with two minutes left. But the Sharks found offensive form to close it, scoring seven in two minutes.
Loving close the half with a two-handed jam in traffic, making it 44-39 with 20 minutes to play.
In a low-scoring start to the third, a Jordan Ratiho three for the Sharks made it a one point game. After a back and fourth battle, the visitors went on to take the lead following a pair of free throws from two-guard Nichols.
Nichols scored seven to close the third, stretching their lead to four entering the final period.
The Riders swung the scoreline back in their direction but could not get over the hump through the opening minutes of the fourth. Jackson, Adekoya and Walshe found the basket, but the deficit was one point with five to play.
Back-to-back threes from Sheffield, the second from Rodney Glasgow, rebuilt their lead. But the Riders, once again, cut their deficit to two after a pair of Jackson threes in response.
Jackson continued his takeover of the game, stripping the ball from Nichols before Mackenzie drew an unsportsmanlike foul, tying the game from the free throw line.
In the final minute, the Sharks found their way to the free throw line through Saeed Nelson who made one. The Riders had a chance to win it on the buzzer, but Jackson could not find the net.
The Riders remain at home for their next fixture, taking on the Manchester Giants in the BBL Championship. A win would see them improve to 15-6, as they go for three league wins on the bounce.