The Riders head north on Friday to take on their historic rivals, the Newcastle Eagles. The sides have faced off in the biggest games in British Basketball over the last decade. Here, we catch you up with the history…
2011/12- The first Final meeting
The sides first met in a major final in the Rob Paternostro era in the 2012 BBL Playoff Final: the Riders’ first final since 2001.
The Eagles, then serial winners of the competition having won four since the Riders’ last appearance, added a fifth to their trophy cabinet on this occasion. They won the game 71–62, led by MVP Charles Smith’s 21 points.
That season, the Eagles pulled off the domestic quadruple, their victory against the Riders capping off the achievement.
Leicester pushed the Eagles all the way in the League, falling just two points short to set up the rivalry between the organisations.
2012/13- Riders on the board
The next season, the Riders took the silverware against the North Easterners, winning the treble by lifting the Championship, Cup and Playoff trophies.
They first met the Eagles in the 2013 BBL Cup final. Jay Cousinard’s MVP performance led Leicester to a 85–80 win, earning the first piece of silverware for Head Coach Rob Paternostro.
The Riders went on to lift the League title with a 30-3 record, clearing the second-placed Eagles by ten points, before meeting them in the Playoff final to complete the treble.
Leicester won the tie 68–57, again led by MVP Cousinard, to make it 2-1 in domestic finals between the sides.
2013/14– Trading trophies
Again, the teams fought for silverware at the earliest opportunity the next season in the BBL Cup final. The Riders had the edge, playing out a classic at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham.
Cousinard’s late free throws put Leicester up three with seven seconds remaining, as the Riders fought back from 11 points down with four minutes to play, led by eight points from MVP Drew Sullivan.
The Riders didn’t meet the Eagles in the remaining two finals, as Newcastle went on to top the Championship table and fell short in the Playoff final against the Worcester Wolves.
2014/15- Eagles quadruple
The 2014/15 season saw the Riders and Eagles share a title fight wire to wire. The Eagles emerged victors, finishing with 62 points to the Riders 60, then going on to win the Playoff final against the London Lions.
The Eagles again won the quadruple as they did in 2012, facing off against the Riders in yet another final. This time, it was the 2014 BBL Trophy final, which they won 96-90 led by MVP Smith once again.
Smith’s season saw him named League MVP, as he put up 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the Eagles’ historic season.
2015/16- Riders respond
The Riders responded next season, winning the League and Trophy double. It was Leicester’s turn to pip Newcastle to the Championship title, a 29-4 record seeing them edge out the second-placed Eagles 58 points to 56.
Leicester beat their Eagles on their new homecourt at the Morningside Arena to lift the title.
The Riders went through the Eagles in the Trophy final, winning 85-77 led by MVP Sullivan against his former team. It was revenge for the Riders, who were beaten by the Eagles in the Cup final earlier in the year.
The Eagles’ Rahmon Fletcher won the first of his two BBL MVP awards, and led the team in the Cup win to take home Final MVP.
Leicester had a shot at the treble in the BBL Playoff Final, but fell a game short to the Sheffield Sharks.
2016/17- Building on success
The 2016/17 season saw Leicester build on the previous year’s success, winning another domestic treble.
Winning the League over Newcastle by eight points, and taking a dominant 84–63 victory against the Eagles in the Playoff Final saw them establish themselves as the BBL’s premier outfit, after they lifted their first silverware of the season with a 91-58 win against the Plymouth Raiders in the Trophy.
The Playoffs marked the last time the sides have faced off in a domestic final.
The Eagles weren’t left empty-handed, however, winning the BBL Cup with a 91–83 victory against the Glasgow Rocks. But the Riders finished the season the stronger of the sides, with Pierre Hampton leading the team to a playoff win with a Final MVP performance.
2018/Present- Recent years
2018 saw the first season where Leicester and Newcastle didn’t meet in a final in seven years. It also marked the first season the Eagles failed to make a final in eight years.
Meanwhile, the Riders secured another treble, winning the League by 10 points over the London Lions.
They faced the Lions in the Playoff final to win the treble, taking the victory comfortably 81-60, and beat the Sheffield Sharks to win the Trophy final 90-85.
The Eagles finished third in the standings with a 21-11 record, not facing the Riders in any of the knockout competitions throughout the season.
The most recent high-stakes game between the Riders and Eagles dates back to the 2021 Playoffs, where the Eagles beat the League champions over two legs in a behind-closed-doors semi-final.
They went on to win the Playoffs that season, before the Riders responded with another treble the following season.
With a revamped roster for both sides this season, it would come as no surprise for the teams to meet at the highest level once again.
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