Final Four Report: Riders bow out of Trophy to Phoenix

The Riders fell short of a dramatic comeback in the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four, losing 92-91 to the Cheshire Phoenix. 

Leicester were down 12 with 2:55 left, but led the game with 20 seconds on the clock after a spirited comeback. But the Phoenix had the final say, as Rideau finished a layup through contact to win it.

Miryne Thomas had a shot to win the game, but missed a tough running triple on the buzzer. 

Star guard Teddy Allen led the team with 20 points scoring five quick points to trigger the comeback. He was backed by 13 from Mackenzie and Thomas.

Cheshire’s physical wing Aaryn Rai led the game with a monster 27-point, 11-rebound double-double. Stretch big Skyler White went off for 23, hitting six threes in key moments throughout for Cheshire. 

Leicester’s veterans settled the nerves to start the game, as Mackenzie and Mo Walker put up the first seven points of the game. Jaren Holmes followed up with an and-one finish in transition, making it a 10-5 Riders start. 

Walker had a dominant start on the boards. He grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in the opening five minutes, the third making it 16-9 as he finished for two. 

The Phoenix hit back by driving to the hoop for back-to-back and-one plays. Rai had to second of the plays cut it to 16-13. 

The first closed at a slower scoring pace, but the Riders had the stronger of it and finished the quarter up 22-18. 

The Phoenix tied it up at 24 to start the second, with Maceo Jack running the break and finishing in close. Rideau drove to the hoop next time up the court, and took contact from Leicester’s Conner Washington for another score, plus the foul, to force a Riders timeout. 

Leicester locked in on defence to stem the tide and keep in touch with their opponents. They held the Phoenix to three points in two minutes, keeping them from the hoop with effective perimeter defence. 

All of the Riders’ second-quarter points came at the hoop. With their deep shots not falling, they stayed aggressive on both ends. 

But Cheshire ended the half with a 10-0 run, led by five from Rai, and the teams finished the half with the score 46-34 to the Phoenix. Rai led all scorers at the break with 13 points. 

Back-to-back White threes started the second half for the Phoenix, putting them up 18. The Riders started off 0-2 from deep, bringing them to 1-10 from three on the game. 

Thomas came up with a monster highlight, throwing down a putback jam off a Mackenzie missed layup. 

Walker connected to take the lid off the rim as the Riders attempted to claw back into the game. Holmes followed up with two scores to bring it to a 12 point difference. But the Riders efforts had a dent put in them with a Maceo Jack triple for Cheshire. 

Allen hit back with his first three of the game, and heated up with an and-one play, fading away from Cam Holden through contact. But Rai hit shots to keep the Riders at arm’s length, keeping his team up double digits. 

Allen scored seven in the third, but Rai came up with 9 points for the Phoenix. He blocked TJ Lall’s attempted three to end the third, Cheshire up 69-57. 

The Riders battled to start the fourth, Duke Shelton cutting it to 10 with a layup over Rai. Thomas quickly made it a single-digit affair on the next play with a score in the post. 

Allen drained a tough stepback three, then ran the break with Shelton with 5:41 remaining to bring the score to 79-73. Duke sent back Rai’s attempt in close to keep it to six with 4:52 left. 

White responded with a miracle three, pulling up from the corner with Shelton draped over him to snatch momentum back. White kept connecting from behind the arc, and the Phoenix stretched the lead back to 12 with 2:55 left. 

Thomas responded with back-to-back buckets to make it 82-89, before Mackenzie took a charge and drained a three to peg the Phoenix back. Holmes followed with a three, making it a one point affair. 

White got to the foul line with less than a minute left to put the Phoenix up two. The Riders fell back on their captain in the clutch, as Mackenzie came up with a monster and-one play with 20 seconds remaining to put Leicester up one. 

But Rideau had the final say, driving to the rim for an and-one of his own to snatch the lead back. Thomas missed a running three on the buzzer, ending the game. 

Trophy preview: Riders vs Phoenix

Saturday evening sees the Riders attempting to claim their most important win of the season as they take on the Cheshire Phoenix in the British Basketball League Trophy semi-final.

Rob Paternostro’s young squad will take the trip to Birmingham to face the Group A winners under the lights of the Utilita Arena.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders vs Cheshire Phoenix

Utilita Arena, Birmingham

Saturday, January 27, 6:00pm

Get tickets!

Riders’ Road to the Semis

The Riders’ journey to the final weekend of the Trophy initially looked tough, placed in Group B with the London Lions, Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles, Bristol Flyers, and Manchester Giants – all of whom have scored wins over Leicester this season.

However, with a renewed focus on defence and the seamless introduction of mid-season signings, the Riders finished the group stage with a 3-1 record to finish second behind the Lions.

The Trophy season began on January 5 with the visit of the Flyers to the Morningside Arena, confident after defeating Leicester on their home court in the Championship just a week prior.

The Riders learned from the previous contest that limiting big man Brad Greene’s effectiveness on the offensive glass was key to victory, and so they did, outboarding the visitors 45-36, led by a physical showing from Samuel Idowu, who bagged 14 rebounds.

The second-unit power forward backed up his glass-eating with 15 points for a maiden double-double, only bested by a spectacular 30-point night from Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen.

The CEBL MVP showed against the Flyers that he isn’t just a dominant scorer – he can dish an assist, use his 6’6” frame to grab rebounds and make life tough in perimeter defence.

The Riders hit the ground running with a 21-point win, and despite losing 89-74 to the London juggernaut, carried moment into a Wednesday-night tilt against the exciting Manchester Giants.

Paternostro knew that a win would put pressure on both the Flyers and the Eagles playing later that week, and with the Giants’ leaky defence and lack of Jamell Anderson, the Riders’ coach sent his team onto the floor to score early and often.

The players responded, buoying the home crowd with 59 first-half points and a double-digit lead going into halftime. The Giants threatened a comeback in the third quarter behind Nick Lewis’ 17, but it proved to be a false dawn after a 29-point fourth quarter from the Riders saw them to a 104-88 win.

The team win treated fans to several excellent performances, but the pairing of Miryne Thomas and TJ Lall stood out from the crowd.

Athletic big Thomas hit a near triple-double, rattling the rim for 16 points, collecting nine boards and even laying on eight assists for his team.

Lall also stuffed the stat sheets in 19 minutes from the bench, blocking shots on defence as well as bagging 19 points at the other end in an efficient display.

Sitting at 2-1 and in prime position to make the ‘Finals Weekend’, the Riders faced a must-win battle in Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena. 

Facing the prospect of crashing out of the Trophy with a loss, Paternostro galvanised his squad throughout the night which inspired them to put on a fantastic showing.

After a back-and-forth game of scoring runs, the Riders rose over the typically raucous Newcastle atmosphere to earn a 101-85 win, led by ‘Team of the Week’ point guard, Kimbal Mackenzie (22 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists).

Phoenix’s Road to the Semis

After a surprisingly bright first half of the season, Cheshire entered Group A of the League Trophy as favourites to progress through.

The unexpected pressure didn’t appear to tell on Ben Thomas’ squad though, as they remained unbeaten through group play and came top with a perfect record.

The trickiest game of Cheshire’s Trophy campaign came in Round One with a long trip north to face the in-form Caledonia Gladiators.

The two teams often play each other tight, and January 5 was no different, with the scores level on points after four quarters and overtime needed to decide the winner.

 With a 100-97 lead in the final minute, Cheshire missed a couple of free throws to give the home side a chance to tie the game at the overtime buzzer.

Luckily for the Phoenix, Clifton Moore Jr’s three-pointer missed the mark and Cheshire could ride the wave of a late win into the upcoming rounds.

As he has been throughout January, free-scoring forward Cam Christon made the difference for the Phoenix, bringing 18-points off the bench on an 80% shooting day.

The next two games were a pair of one-sided affairs which showcased the scoring potential of Cheshire’s offense.

First, Christon, Ethan Chargois and Maceo Jack all scored 20-plus points in a 102-74 victory over the Plymouth City Patriots, soon to be followed up with a 105-63 demolition of the Surrey Scorchers, where floor general Laquincy Rideau fed his team with ten dishes.

With qualification all but guaranteed, the Phoenix rotated the squad heavily in their final group game against the B. Braun Sheffield Sharks, but despite being down heading into the fourth, role-player EJ Stephens led a comeback to give Cheshire a healthy 78-70 win.

Key Matchups

The Utilita Arena court will be awash with talent this weekend, as two of the league’s best offences face off.

The team that advances to the Trophy Final will be the one that can orchestrate their potent attack most effectively, making the point guard battle between Kimbal Mackenzie and Laquincy Rideau the key matchup.

6’1” Florida-native Rideau has been a huge part of Cheshire’s rise in the Championship this season and has continued that form into the Trophy competition.

Known as a dynamic defender, Rideau is displaying his fast hands and timing by averaging over three steals per game, good for second in the league.

The 27-year-old – who has seen his professional career take him to Luxembourg and Ecuador – also has an eye for a pass, feeding out six assists per game including a ten-assist performance against the Scorchers.

 Attempting to unlock Rideau’s defence will be in-form Riders’ captain Kimbal Mackenzie.

Leicester’s leader has displayed excellent form during January, saving his best for the crucial victory over the Eagles.

The experienced Canadian is a big game player and Riders fans are accustomed to seeing him come through in the clutch with a dagger bucket.

If the Phoenix threaten to go on a run or the game is tight in the final few minutes, expect to see Mackenzie’s famous stop-and-pop jumper swishing the net.

The all-action point guard is averaging nearly 13 points per game and is +41 in plus/minus in the Trophy.

For the Riders to advance to the tournament final, Mackenzie may need to go over and above the already significant impact he is having on each game.

Trophy by Numbers: Breaking down the stats for the Riders Final Four clash

Leicester Riders are set to take on the Cheshire Phoenix in the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four on Saturday.

Here, we take a look at the numbers behind the matchup…

Locking off the paint

The Riders have invested in the defensive side of the ball, making the paint their own over the Trophy campaign. 

They lead the competition in blocks, sending away 6.3 shots per game, with four Riders averaging at least a block per outing. They’re led by Canadian forward TJ Lall, who has denied opponents on six different occasions through the four group games. 

Riders captain, Kimbal Mackenzie, said his CEBL teammate over the summer has been an integral factor in the defensive effort:

“TJ is a high-level, all-around threat. He can score the ball to a great standard, he is an underrated passer, and his defence, length and athleticism are special. I’ve gone against him many times in practice, and he can be tough to shake.”

READ MORE: Kimbal Mackenzie previews the Final Four

This rim protection will be vital against the Phoenix, who lead the Trophy in points in the paint with 47 per game. 

Battle on the boards

No defensive possession is complete until the rebound is pulled down, and the Riders have been closing the possessions to a high standard in recent weeks. They pull down the second-most defensive boards in the Trophy with 30 per game, just 0.5 per game away from the highest-ranked London Lions. 

The battle on the boards will be key in this matchup. Cheshire crashes the offensive glass to grab the second most offensive rebounds in the competition with 13.5 per game. 

However, their leading offensive rebounder, Ethan Chargois, will be sidelined for the game after suffering a dislocated finger last time out against the Sheffield Sharks. 

For the Riders, Lall, again, has been a beast on the boards, grabbing 4.8 defensive rebounds per outing. But it’s big man Samuel Idowu who has rebounded at the highest rate in total, with 7.5 per game, including 2.8 on the offensive glass. 

Idowu, who has been recovering from a season-ending knee injury for the previous two seasons, is back to his bruising best. He feels back to 100% fitness and can play with full confidence and athleticism. 

“My body has been feeling good,” said Idowu. “It’s finally feeling normal after recovering from an injury for two seasons. I’m not overthinking any decisions on the court and playing how I used to play. 

“I feel 100% because I have confidence in my knee again. It doesn’t hold me back from doing what I want to be doing out there when jumping or running, as it did at the start of the season. I’m where I wanted to be when I started my rehab.”

READ MORE: Samuel Idowu previews the Final Four

Idowu has ranked second on the team in scoring during the Trophy group, scoring 13.8 points per game after his 17-point explosion against the Newcastle Eagles to help send the Riders to the Final Four. 

Track meet in transition 

A key to the Phoenix’s success this season has been their ability to get out and run. They lead all teams in points off turnovers (24.75 per game) and fastbreak points (23.5 per game) and take the ball from the other team at the highest rate (21.11 turnover %), leading to the breakaway buckets. 

American guard Laquincy Rideau has been a key factor in this, leading the team in steals, and ranking third among all players in that statistical category.

The Riders will have to play clean basketball, which they have done throughout January, turning the ball over the second-least with 11.75 turnovers per game. 

Head Coach Rob Paternostro emphasised the importance of winning in transition:

“We can’t allow easy baskets. We have to take away easy runouts and layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. We have to make it tough for them to get good looks. 

“In these types of games, it’s important to limit offensive opportunities, and if you do that, you put yourself in a good position to win.

“They’re really good in the open floor- they’ve scored the most in transition of any team season. They’ve done a good job of getting second-chance opportunities. That’s going to be vital to stop. 

“When we’ve been able to limit those against anyone, we’ve been successful this year.”

READ MORE: Rob Paternostro previews the Final Four

Want to see the Riders go for gold this weekend? You can join the Sea of Red and get behind the team! 

Get tickets here!

Sam Idowu looks ahead to the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four

Few have stepped up like Samuel Idowu for the Riders on their British Basketball League Trophy run. 

The big man has averaged 13.8 points per game to help the team to the Final Four, the second most on the team, and exploded for 12 points in the first quarter against the Newcastle Eagles to steady the nerves after an 0-7 start for Leicester. 

Want to see Sam represent the Riders in the British Basketball League All-Star game?

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Idowu has battled back from injury for the last two seasons to get to where he is today, and he’s relishing the challenge. 

“The Trophy is something to really compete for,” he said. “It ups the stakes, mentally and physically, and it’s something I’ve been taking seriously. We have a chance to win with the team that we’ve been building, so we’ve all been locked in.

“My body has been feeling good. It’s finally feeling normal after recovering from an injury for two seasons. I’m not overthinking any decisions on the court and playing how I used to play. 

“I feel 100% because I have confidence in my knee again. It doesn’t hold me back from doing what I want to be doing out there when jumping or running, as it did at the start of the season. I’m where I wanted to be when I started my rehab.”

READ MORE: Sam Idowu reflects on battling back from injury

Leicester locked in

The Riders have upped their level for the Trophy and went 3-1 through the group phase. Their loss was to the League-leading London Lions, and their three wins came in dominant fashion. 

“Our mindset was to win every group game. We didn’t play well in London- we didn’t shoot it well and turned the ball over too much- but for the other games, we handled business. 

“I’m proud of the statement we made. We tried to jump out the gate early, and we did a good job of grabbing those wins to get through to the Final Four.”

In front of a raucous home crowd in a win-or-go-home environment, it was important to start quickly in Newcastle and keep the crowd out of the game. Former Eagle Duke Shelton said as much beforehand in his preview of the fixture:

“Everybody is going to be up for the game, and we know it’s going to be rowdy in there. The key is to set the tone early, throwing the first punch and take it from there.”- Duke Shelton before the Riders faced the Newcastle Eagles.

But the Riders failed to do so, and the Eagles game flew out the blocks and forced them to dig themselves out of a hole. 

Leicester showed poise and composure, fought back and won in commanding fashion. Idowu thought it said a lot about the team’s strong mentality.

“Being down early against Newcastle showed growth for us. Coach called a timeout, and we knew it would be a game of runs- it always is against them. We just had to stay poised and play our game for the full 40 minutes. 

“Just because we went down in the first two minutes didn’t mean we needed to panic. We weren’t down on ourselves. At that point, the confidence throughout the team was there to come back and compete.”

Defence wins championships

After a difficult start to the season, the Riders have hit their stride at the right time as they go for silverware. Idowu discussed the secret to Leicester’s recent success. 

“We’ve cleaned up smaller mistakes that plagued us at the start of the season and paid attention to detail. We’re also able to adjust at halftime when we need to fix something. We take pride in our ability to do that going into the second half.

“We’re taking defence personally. That’s from practice to in the games. We’re prideful in our efforts to get stops, so we’re happy to see it translate to the games. If we stay competitive, we’ll get results.

“Our rebounding especially has improved throughout the year, and we know how much that can control the game.”

Chemistry with new teammates

The Riders have seen an improvement in their performances since the addition of star guard Teddy Allen and Idowu’s frontcourt teammate Shelton, who have complimented Idowu’s game and seen him thrive. 

“Teddy and I have a great connection on the court, especially in the pick and roll, which has led to a lot of dunks for me. 

“He reads the floor really well and sees openings to get me the ball. He’s been great for us, and we’ve found a way to integrate him into our offence. The energy has definitely changed since he arrived.”

Shelton, in particular, is a player that Head Coach Rob Paternostro expects to benefit Idowu’s game. 

“Sam’s athleticism on the defensive end has been important,” said Paternostro. “He’s a great teammate, and he’s a guy that plays with a passion out there. 

“That can really lift the players around him. Now, playing with Duke, his versatility will be on display even more, because he’ll be able to step outside and hurt teams from inside and out.”

Idowu seconded his coach, adding how much they complement each other’s game and personalities.

“Duke is an immediate energy guy, and he has contributed in a big way. I don’t see anything negative about him being out there. He’s a great rebounder and really athletic. 

“I enjoy playing with him. We communicate really well together and match each other’s energy, and it comes naturally between us. I think that’s helped him adjust at the perfect time going into the Final Four.”

Ready for the big stage

Should the Riders progress on Saturday against the Cheshire Phoenix, it will be Idowu’s first major final as a professional. 

As a rookie, playing in the Netherlands for LWD Basket, he made the final of a domestic competition, but it was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes the potential of a final all the more exciting. 

“I’m looking forward to going to Birmingham. I’ve heard it’s a great city and a great atmosphere. I can’t wait.

“I’ve played in a couple of big arenas and in knockout games in the conference tournament at the end of college seasons. I’m looking forward to embracing an atmosphere like that again.”

Getting one back against Cheshire

But before then, the Riders have to beat a hot Cheshire team, who are one game behind second in the Championship standings and have beaten the Riders three times already this season.

Idowu laid out the keys to success. 

“The key for us is to keep doing what we’ve been doing. When we’ve played them we’ve had a different roster and played a different style of basketball, so we’re looking forward to facing them again. 

“I’m excited to see the intensity- ours is going to be through the roof knowing we’ve lost to them three times already. We definitely have a chip on our shoulders. We’ve been waiting for this, and we’re hungry for it. We’re not trying to lose them a fourth time when it matters most.”

The moment means everything to Idowu, who has fought to be out of the court in the first place. That’s not lost on him.

“I’ve been through so much in the past two years, so win or lose, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come. I thank god that I’m still able to play the game that I love professionally.

“For everything I’ve gone from recovering from injuries and watching from the sideline to potentially winning a trophy, which would be an incredible feeling.”

Want to see the Riders go for gold this weekend? You can join the Sea of Red and get behind the team! 

Get tickets here!

Rob Paternostro previews the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four

The Riders are set to take on the Final Four in the British Basketball League Trophy this weekend. 

For Head Coach Rob Paternostro, it will be his sixth trip to Birmingham at the Riders’ reins as he goes for his 18th piece of League silverware with the club. 

He reflected on his team’s journey through the competition so far, and previewed Leicester’s clash with the Phoenix on Saturday. 

Building momentum

To punch their ticket to Birmingham, the Riders faced off against their historic rivals, the Newcastle Eagles, in a win-or-go-home scenario. The Riders controlled the game on the road against the Eagles, coming out 101-85 victors.

The result saw the Riders through with a 3-1 record, winning both of their home games against the Manchester Giants and Bristol Flyers before getting it done in the North East. 

“We played some good basketball on both ends of the floor,” said Paternsotro, looking back at the team’s performances throughout the group phase. 

“We took care of our home games, which was very important, and we showed a real toughness to go on the road in a win-or-go-home game and win by such a big margin in Newcastle.

“We felt really good about our team going into the game. With the additions of Teddy and Duke, we feel like we’re in a great position. 

“We have confidence, we’ve been having great weeks in practice, and we can see the work we’ve been putting in on the court in games. It was an impressive win to be in control like that.”

The Riders made waves midseason with the acquisition of CEBL MVP Teddy Allen and experienced forward Duke Shelton to their roster. 

The midseason moves have had a significant impact on the team.

“Our rebounding has certainly picked up, and both of those guys have really helped in that regard. Teddy’s size and energy from the wing have helped us close possessions, and adding Duke means we feel like we have more options to play bigger if needed. 

“Looking at this roster, we have a lot of guys now that are locked in and alert.

“That has improved from the beginning of the season until now, and it’s vital when you come into any important game. We have to have a group that’s aware of what the team is doing defensively.”

Impact players

It’s no secret to anyone following the team that the impact of Allen on this Riders roster has been immeasurable. He led the Trophy in scoring throughout the group phase and has given the team confidence going onto the court with an elite scoring threat. 

Riders captain Kimbal Mackenzie attested to this: 

“Of course, the thing that stands out with Teddy is his ability to score, but above that has provided us with an extra layer of confidence and swagger. 

“He’s given our team the confidence to go on the road in a game like Newcastle, knowing we have him on our side. He’s a winner. It’s simple to say, but he cares about winning. You can tell throughout the week at practice- he always wants to play more, and he works hard on both ends.”

Paternostro seconded his skipper, speaking on what having another All-Star talent on the roster has added to the team:

“Before Teddy arrived, we were already beginning to put together some smart, intelligent play, but he’s given us an X-Factor that can do so much. 

“His scoring has been tremendous. It’s given the group confidence knowing they have a guy who can make plays like that. But he’s also helped us in a lot of ways that people haven’t talked about. 

“His physicality from the wing, his rebounding and his ability to find the ball are all things that we’ve been looking for before he arrived, and he’s been someone that can explode and take your team to another level.”

TJ’s Trophy Performances

Beyond Teddy, the Riders have difference-makers up and down the roster. A player that has particularly impressed since he landed in Leicester is Canadian forward TJ Lall. 

“TJ has been fantastic in this competition, and he’s been a really good player for us all year. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league. 

“He can impact the game in many ways on both ends of the floor, cover multiple positions defensively, and his athleticism is valuable, but offensively, he has shown an ability to score and shoot efficiently and to create as well. 

“We’ve been very happy to have him playing for us. He’s been vital. He’s a hard worker- he’s there early and late in practice- and he wants to be in big games. 

“Going forward, the sky is the limit for him. When you combine his skills with his willingness to guard anyone, you’re looking at a player who is going to have a bright career.”

Back to Birmingham

Paternostro returns to Birmingham for the sixth time as head coach. He played for the Birmingham Bullets in the British Basketball League for two stints between 2000 and 2004. It’s a city of great sentiment for him. 

“I love it there. It’s always been a great place to play. I’ve been in this country a long time and played so many memorable games there, coaching and playing.”

The all-new Trophy format sees the Final Four fight it out over the weekend, bringing the Riders to Birmingham with the reigning champions Caledonia Gladiators, as well as the Cheshire Phoenix and London Lions. 

“The exciting part about this weekend is that it’s four teams and four sets of fans coming to the Arena on Saturday. Having a lot of British Basketball League fans around the city is going to make a great environment for British basketball.”

Facing the Phoenix

The Riders will take on the Cheshire Phoenix on Saturday, who have already bested them three times this season. 

Paternostro said that keeping them in the halfcourt is a big key to success in this one. 

“We can’t allow easy baskets. We have to take away easy runouts and layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. We have to make it tough for them to get good looks. 

“In these types of games, it’s important to limit offensive opportunities, and if you do that, you put yourself in a good position to win.”

Cheshire are one of the stories of the season, sitting a win behind second in the British Basketball League Championship standings. They reached the final of the Trophy last season but fell on the buzzer to David Sloan’s corner three. 

The Riders will look to prevent them from making it back-to-back Finals appearances for the Phoenix.  

“They’re really good in the open floor- they’ve scored the most in transition of any team season. They’ve done a good job of getting second-chance opportunities. That’s going to be vital to stop. 

“When we’ve been able to limit those against anyone, we’ve been successful this year.”

These games, in these environments, are the types of matchups that the best players thrive in. Paternostro called out to his team to enjoy the occasion. 

“There’s a lot of good players in this game, so it should be a really good event for everyone involved. We’ve got to enjoy it. These are the games we play for, and you have to have a group that enjoys the challenge and is fired up to play well on the day.”

Want to be a part of the atmosphere, and join the Sea of Red in Birmingham? 

Get tickets here! 

Kimbal Mackenzie previews the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four

Ahead of the Leicester Riders British Basketball League Trophy Final Four clash against Cheshire Phoenix on Saturday, captain Kimbal Mackenzie reflects on the campaign so far, and looks ahead to the matchup…

Thank you to everybody for your incredible support during our Trophy run so far. We’re all excited that we’ve been able to pay our fans back with another trip to Birmingham this season. 

I’m proud of the team for how we’ve played during the group phase, and that we’ve booked our ticket to the Final Four. 

Personally, I’m really looking forward to going back to Birmingham. I love that city, and I love that arena. It’s always a great atmosphere, and it’s cool to have a new format with the Final Four being played out over the weekend.

Hopefully, we can take care of business on Saturday and have the opportunity to play there again on Sunday in the Final.

We’re really looking forward to the opportunity to play Chesire again in the semi-finals. They have gotten the better of us so far this season, so we will really be looking to play well and get the win.

We’ve put together a good month of basketball so far, and most importantly, handled business at home during the group phase. Of course, we didn’t get the result we wanted in London, but they’re a tough team to play, and we knew that winning 3 games should be enough. 

Going on the road and beating Newcastle was a great response. It was a fun game, and those are the games you remember, win or lose. It’s always a good atmosphere there, so adding a win-or-go-home scenario to it created a playoff-esque environment.

It was great to get the win, and it was important to get a big game under our belts before heading to the Final Four.

The arrival of Teddy Allen has been a great boost for us over the last month. Of course, the thing that stands out with Teddy is his ability to score the ball, but he has also provided us with added depth and an overall confidence and swagger. 

There is no doubt that he is a winner. It’s simple to say, but he cares about winning. You can tell throughout the week at practice- he always wants to play more, and he works hard on both ends. He’s been great to have around. 

And beyond Teddy, we’ve had guys stepping up all the way down the roster. We’re definitely more locked into the game plan, and locked in on defence, and a special shout goes to  TJ Lall, who has been playing excellently over the last stretch.  

TJ is a high-level, all-around threat. He can score the ball to a great standard, he is an underrated passer, and his defence, length and athleticism are special. I’ve gone against him many times in practice, and he can be tough to shake. 

Another shout-out goes to Sam Idowu, who has also been playing excellently recently. He’s given us a spark off the bench which is so important, he’s been shooting it well and finishing around the net effectively. His activity level, blocking shots, rebounding, and overall energy have been amazing for us.

It’s also been great to add Duke to the roster! 

Duke has fit in seamlessly, and he’s a true professional. He came in and learned the sets quickly, and understands our concepts really well. 

His length and athleticism and his ability to finish above the rim have really benefited us on the court, and just having a great guy around who wants to win is always beneficial. It’s been great to have him and has been a brilliant addition to our team.

Having guys up and down the roster who are locked in and playing with confidence and energy has been great and it’s something we’re going to have to fall back on going into Birmingham. 

We’re hoping to be playing games in back-to-back days, and part of what has allowed us to have a good group stage is getting contributions from all over the place. 

And as usual, we’ll have to lock in on defence, rebound and take care of the ball. When we’ve done those things well, we’ve been on the right side of the scoreline this season. 

We’re hoping to do that twice this weekend and bring some silverware back to Leicester. We can’t wait to see that Sea of Red in Birmingham!

See you there! 

Your captain,

Kimbal Mackenzie

Want to join the Sea of Red and get behind the Riders in Birmingham?

Get your tickets here!

3 things we learned from the Trophy Group Phase

The Riders punched their ticket to the British Basketball League Trophy Final Four, after beating the Newcastle Eagles in a win-or-go-home matchup.

The team has built momentum in recent weeks, putting in good performances in high-pressure matchups to progress out of Group B.

Here’s what we learned from the group phase…

The Riders are rolling

The Riders have hit a rich vein of form in the Trophy, winning by an average margin of 17.6 points on their way to a 3-1 record. 

Their loss came to the league-leading Lions on the road, but they bounced back emphatically with consecutive wins to progress to the final four. 

The Riders did so by making the most of every possession. They rank second in assists, second in scoring and third in field goal percentage through the Trophy phase, led by scoring savant Teddy Allen.

Allen leads all scorers in the Trophy through four games with a 21.5 average. His gravitational pull on offence has opened up the court for all of the Riders scorers, allowing them to click into gear as they go for silverware. 

The team are peaking at the right time, and will take confidence in their performances heading into Birmingham. 

Strength in depth

Leicester’s bench is what saw them to their momentous win against the Newcastle Eagles last night, mustering 37 points from the sideline. 

They have six scorers averaging double-digit points in the Trophy, but no one has impressed more of late than big man Samuel Idowu. 

Idowu led the charge out of the gate in Newcastle, going off for 12 first-quarter points and 17 on the game. He is the team’s second-leading scorer in the competition behind Allen, with an average of 13.8. 

“It was a real team effort. We have guys giving contributions all over the court,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro after the win against the Eagles. 

“We’re pretty deep now, we have guys in every position, and we’re locked in. We’re especially locked in on the defensive end, which has been a real positive for us recently.”

Defence wins championships

As has been the trend for Paternosto teams over the last decade, the Riders have hung their hat on their defence. 

They lead the Trophy in blocks, with 6.3 per game, led by TJ Lall’s 1.5 per outing, laying down a gauntlet at the rim and forcing teams to shoot over them from deep. 

Another strength of the team is closing defensive possessions. The Riders rank second in the Trophy in defensive rebounding with 30 a game, allowing their opposition little opportunity for second chance points. 

The Riders’ defence will need to remain locked in should they want to lift the silverware in Birmingham.

Want to join the Sea of Red, and get behind the Riders in Birmingham?

Find out how you can book your ticket here!

Ticket information: Trophy Final and Semi-Final

Leicester Riders have progressed to the Final Four of the British Basketball League Trophy at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham.

You can get tickets in the Riders allocation to join the Sea of Red and get behind the team!

Here’s all you need to know about our ticket offers…

Weekend and Saturday Tickets 

With this year’s British Basketball League Trophy Semi-Final and Final taking place on the same weekend at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham, you can choose to purchase tickets for the entire weekend or just for the semi-finals. 

Tickets for the full weekend are £48 for adults and £38 for children in Band A, and £39 for adults and £34 for children in Band B. 

Alternatively, you can purchase tickets for the semi-final only, at £41 for adults and £32 for children. 

Band A tickets are for seats in the lower tiers, and Band B is for seats in the upper tiers. 

Should the Riders fail to progress to the Final on Saturday, your ticket will still be valid to watch Sunday’s action with a weekend ticket.


We can arrange your travel from our Arena to the Utilita Arena, Birmingham, on both Saturday and Sunday. 

Travel is £30 per day, or £45 for both days. 

Timings will be confirmed upon booking.

How to collect your tickets

Tickets will be available for collection at the Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday between 6 and 9 pm. 

Please collect from the main reception, at the following address:

Morningside Arena
12 Memory Lane

You can also choose to have your tickets posted to your home address for the price of £4. 

Sea of Red

We need your support in the Trophy Final Four! Help us to create a Sea of Red at the Utilita Arena Birmingham, by wearing red to the game! 

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Report: Riders beat Giants to improve to 2-1 in the Trophy

The Riders took another step towards the final four of the British Basketball League Trophy with a midweek 104-86 victory over the 0-2 Manchester Giants.

The win takes Leicester’s record to 2-1, putting pressure on the Bristol Flyers and Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles, neither of whom can afford to lose if they want to claim a top two spot in Group B.

The Riders struggled at times to score efficiently, but coach Rob Paternostro will be happy with his team’s dominance on the boards – outrebounding the visitors 50-37 – and the unselfish basketball on display, the Riders dishing 30 assists on the night.

The home side also did an excellent job of forcing missed shots down low, Leicester’s big men battling hard against the sizeable Manchester front court.

Athletic power forward Miryne Thomas took ‘Player of the Game’ honours, putting up a stat line of 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists to flirt with a triple-double.

The Riders’ second unit also played well, spearheaded by 19 from TJ Lall who consistently hit big shots in important moments to keep the home side ahead.

Not to be outdone, Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen drained 21 in what appeared to be a ‘quiet’ display by his standards, popping up each quarter with a play to get the Morningside Arena bouncing.

Manchester’s defensive issues continued, but they flashed on offense, William Lee and Nick Lewis the top scorers with 16 and 17 points respectively.

As predicted, the game started quickly, both teams wasting no time putting points on the board. Lee, one of a glut of former Riders suiting up for the Giants, opened the scoring with the first of his ten first half points before an instant answer from captain Kimbal Mackenzie, who had eight of his own.

Thomas soon drained the first three of the night after nice play from Jaren Holmes – five first half assists – before Allen got in on the act, casually pulling up and stringing a classy deep trey to give the Riders an early ten-point lead.

Thomas then splashed again from deep in transition and, with Mackenzie constantly pushing the pace of the offense, Leicester looked in control.

A couple of threes from big-man Lee (the main scoring option with Jamell Anderson injured) kept Manchester within striking distance as the first quarter clock wound down, but an authoritative jam by Samuel Idowu and Lall joining the three-point party maintained Leicester’s control.

The second quarter started with super-sub Lall hitting a tough, fadeaway three and rising for a huge block to get the Morningside on its feet.

Not to be outdone, Holmes drove to the basket for a nice ‘+1’ play which led to a string of Riders free throws, facilitated by the aggressive attacking play of high-flyer Blake Bowman.

The Giants showed fight through Evan Walshe’s 13 first half points and Legend Robertin was his usual abrasive self-down low but continued quality play from Lall and the introduction of debutant Duke Shelton – six points – built the home side’s lead.

A beautiful block on Robertin from Shelton set the tone for the last five minutes of the half, matched by another ‘+1’ play from ‘Buckets’ Allen who reminded the fans why he won December’s ‘Player of the Month’.

Thomas drained his third deep ball of the game to stretch the Riders’ lead to 15 and good team basketball carried Paternostro’s squad towards half time. 

A great first half for Leicester saw them take a 59-44 lead into the locker room, punctuated by a breakaway dunk from Holmes with a few seconds remaining.

The second 20 began and the Riders were now showing dominance on the offensive glass, Mo Walker using his size well before Thomas put back a missed Allen layup with feeling.

However, the following few minutes were scrappy for the home side, missed shots and turnovers allowing Manchester to come back into the game through Lewis, who was slowly heating up.

A nervous energy rippled through the Riders’ fans, but that was soon put to bed after a silky move by Allen.

The CEBL MVP had his man in knots with isolation moves before blowing past him and laying home a tough shot. When Thomas thundered in a two-handed dunk, home supporters were back on their feet.

The final minutes of the quarter saw both teams slow down on the offensive side of the court, the Riders uncharacteristically missing several three-point attempts, allowing the Giants to creep back within ten going into the final stanza.

As he had done to start the second quarter, Lall drained from deep to get the Riders back on track.

Bowman hit another nice move into a layup to bring the lead back to 11, but the Giants were showing something, sticking around with buckets from Jalen Harris and Robertin.

The teams hit a period of trading baskets, going toe-to-toe, the Riders lead at just four points. Leicester soon wrestled back the momentum though, Thomas setting up Idowu for a one-handed flush before ‘Buckets’ Allen hit a layup that only he can for back-to-back scores.

Paternostro’s squad rode that momentum to another double-digit lead with three minutes left, a pair of corner triples in succession from Lall virtually clinching the Riders’ victory.

A clutch trey from the Riders’ captain took them into triple-digits and iced the game, with the Giants unable to make a late-game comeback.

The Riders return to action on Friday, January 19, taking on the Newcastle Eagles on the road.

The game will decide the team’s seeding in Group B, and whether they will advance to the Trophy semi-finals at Utilita Arena Birmingham.

Report: Riders lose in London

The Leicester Riders 89-74 lost on the road to the London Lions, falling to 1-1 in the British Basketball League Trophy Group B. 

Teddy Allen, recently named British Basketball League Player of the Month for December, led the game with 21 points. Sam Idowu backed up Allen with 13 points and 10 rebounds, logging his second straight double-double off the bench.

The game got away from them in the third quarter, as Leicester went scoreless through five minutes. London stretched the lead to 20, and despite a positive Riders fourth quarter, saw the game out from there. 

Leicester struggled to connect from three all afternoon, finishing the game 8-29 from range. 

London’s Matthew Morgan led the hosts with 15 points, and their big man Donte Grantham put on a good showing with 14 points in 19 minutes. The Lions dominated in close, going 30-51 from inside the arc. 

The Riders hung with the Lions through the opening stages, despite struggling for offence. Allen got to the line twice to lead the team through five minutes with 4 points, but the Lions led 10-7. 

Miryne Thomas picked up two quick fouls, allowing Blake Bowman to impress off the bench. 

He scored on back-to-back possessions, draining a contested turnaround from the post before taking Josh Sharma off the dribble and laying in a bucket, then dishing an assist to Sam Idowu next time up the court. 

The Riders trailed 25-19 after a quarter, but that quickly became 31-19 a minute into the second. They started 1-9 from three, and the Lions started the second quarter on a 6-0 run by getting to the bucket on three straight trips. 

Jaren Holmes connected from deep for the Riders’ first points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to nine. 

This took the lid off the basket, and Leicester were able to stem the tide. Allen found his shooting form after an 0-5 start from the field, and put 8 points together quickly to make the score 39-34. He had 15 with 4:18 remaining in the half. 

The Lions rebuilt their lead to double digits come halftime, as GB guard Luke Nelson put the ball in the basket to generate some offence for the hosts. The score was 50-40 by the buzzer to end the second. 

London scored 11 quick points to start the second half to extend their lead. Grantham drained three straight triples, two more than the team scored in the first half, making it 61-40. 

The Riders went scoreless until 4:04 left in the third. Thomas put it through, but the Riders were down 21. It was 70-49 going into the fourth, after Leicester lost the period 20-9. 

Leicester’s efforts to chip into the deficit saw them contest in a hard-fought final quarter. Kimbal Mackenzie got on the board to score five straight points and cut the game to 15 with 5:58 left. 

The Riders kept chipping away, and Allen attacked the hoop and made it 76-62.  But after making it a 14-point deficit, the Lions held the Riders from there and saw the game out led by Grantham’s shot-making. 

The Riders return to action on Wednesday, taking on the Manchester Giants at home, tipping off at 7:45 pm. 

Get tickets here!

Riders Trophy fixture vs Flyers rearranged

Our British Basketball League Trophy fixture against the Bristol Flyers has been rearranged.

The game, previously expected to be played on January 6 at 7 pm, will now take place on January 5 at 7 pm.

Tickets purchased for the original fixture will still be valid for the rearranged date.

For those who have purchased tickets and can no longer make the game, please get in touch with [email protected] to exchange them for a new fixture.

Want to see us tip off our British Basketball League Trophy campaign against the Flyers?

Get tickets here!

2023/24 Trophy format explained!

The British Basketball League released a revamped structure for the upcoming season, featuring best-of-three playoff series, the return of the All-Star game and an all-new Trophy format.

The new structure allows The League to turn its full attention to each competition, dedicating a month of play to the Trophy.

Get to know the new Trophy format.

How does the new format work?

This season in the Trophy, the teams are split into two groups of five. Each team will play the other teams in their group once, determining their standings.

The top two teams in each group progress to the semi-finals. Should you finish top of your group, you earn a semi-final matchup against second place in the other group.

The semi-finals and finals are single elimination knockout, leading to an eventual winner being crowned!

Who will we play?

The Riders’ group features the London Lions, Bristol Flyers, Newcastle Eagles and Manchester Giants.

Our group fixtures are as follows:

Friday 5th Jan19:00HBristol Flyers 
Sunday 7th Jan15:00ALondon Lions
Wednesday 10th Jan19:45HManchester Giants
Friday 19th Jan19:45ANewcastle Eagles

Where are the games?

Following the group stage, the semi-finals and finals will take place at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham, in a final-four weekend event.

The semi-finals will be played on Saturday, January 27, leading to the final on Sunday, January 28.

How can you watch?

You can get tickets to our home fixtures in this season’s Trophy here:

Friday 5th January vs Bristol Flyers

Wednesday 10th January vs Manchester Giants

Tickets to the semi-finals and final at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham are available here.

You can watch our away fixtures on the British Basketball League YouTube channel.