3 things we learned from the doubleheader

The Riders come off the back of a doubleheader week, which they split 1-1 against the Surrey Scorchers and the Caledonia Gladiators.

Here’s what we learned from the matchups…

Bowman steps up

The Riders pushed the Gladiators all the way on Sunday night, and they can credit a large part of that to Blake Bowman. The young star led Leicester’s charge back into the game in the third quarter, putting up a career-high 15 points. 

Bowman scored eight points in the final two minutes of the third and the start of the fourth, throwing down an electric breakaway jam to get the final period underway. 

The Derby native missed only one of his seven shots in the game, earning our Player of the Game with a stat line of 15 points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes of action. 

Washington heating up

Riders veteran Conner Washington is building form as the season progresses. He built on his third-quarter performance, which sparked the Riders’ historic comeback against the Surrey Scorchers with two season highs in the same weekend.

Washington scored eight in as many minutes against the Scorchers, not missing a shot and draining two crucial threes as the Riders began their comeback. He followed this up with 10 points in 13 minutes against Caledonia, pulling the strings to dish six assists. 

Head Coach Rob Paternostro said that Washington’s effect on the team transcends his scoring ability:

“He gets up to the ball with incredible energy to play denying defence, and he’s part of a second unit that’s having a real impact on games. That’s the great thing about having veterans like him on the bench.

“They can see when the starting unit doesn’t have it, and they’re always ready to go. I think Conner turned the game around in a lot of ways against Surrey.”

Offensive consistency is key

The Riders have possessed the second-best offence in the League for much of the season, and this weekend was no different on that end of the ball. They averaged 88.5 points over the two games, making their season average 88.4. 

It comes from all over the court, with seven different players scoring in double-digits across the fixtures, and every Rider contributing to the points tally against the Caledonia Gladiators. 

They get it done efficiently, scoring at a 47.8% clip on the season and 47.4% over the doubleheader. The offensive consistency Leicester has shown in the opening stages of the season puts them in good stead going into any game. 

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Report: Riders fall in dying seconds against Gladiators

The Riders fell in a heartbreaker to the Caledonia Gladiators, losing 84-83 on the road.

Clifton Moore Jr. won it with two seconds remaining for the hosts, after Kimbal Mackenzie put the Riders up one just five seconds prior. Mackenzie had a chance to win it on the buzzer but missed his effort as Leicester fell just short. 

Blake Bowman’s career night led the Riders, the athletic forward driving his team’s charge back into the game after falling down double digits in the third. He finished with 15 points, and was backed by Xavier Pinson’s 14 points following his 10 point fourth quarter. 

It was former Rider Patrick Whelan who led the game with 24. He hit two huge threes in the clutch which kept his team alive. 

The sides wasted no time exchanging blows from the tip-off, in a closely fought game throughout. All five Gladiators got on the board within five minutes, but the Riders found offensive responses to remain within a possession early. 

The hosts found separation in the first, led by Whelan who topped the game’s scoring with seven to build a lead as big as eight points. But a 10-0 run, highlighted by Conner Washington’s four-point play from the corner, meant the Riders led after one. 

Sam Idowu, building off his four-point first quarter, lifted the Riders’ bench to their feet to start the second with a monster two-handed slam off the dribble. Washington continued to roll back the clock, hitting two threes in five minutes as the Riders edged ahead. 

The teams fought tooth and nail until the half, the Riders never trailing throughout the second period. Caledonia’s Moore Jr. ended it with a jumper at the buzzer, tying it up at 44. 

The Gladiators came out of the half with the hot hands, starting 14-6 to put the Riders down eight once again. They extended their lead throughout the third: Lukas Palyza fifth three from five attempts made it a double-digit advantage with 3:16 left. 

Once again, the Riders battled back, cutting it to four after a Bowman breakaway layup. After a Gladiators response, Bowman then found the ball in his hands at the buzzer, fading away for two to make it 63-67 with one to play. 

The young Brit continued to make his mark in the fourth, throwing down an electrifying fast break jam to get the final period underway. After a cagey few minutes with both sides struggling to find the basket, Caleb Asberry putback Jaren Holmes’ miss to tie it up.

Pinson followed up his teammate with a tough fadeaway look from the corner, making it 72-69 to the Riders with five remaining. In a back-and-forth finale, the Chicago-born guard came up big, getting to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions to keep the Riders ahead. 

With two and a half minutes remaining, Pinson dropped off a pocked pass to big man Mo Walker, who finished inside for two to make it a three point Leicester lead. He continued his dominance a minute later, weaving to the rim and finishing a lefty layup over the defence.

Whelan hit back, nailing back-to-back threes to give the Gladiators a one point edge with 30 seconds on the clock. 

His former teammate Mackenzie came up huge in the clutch. He came up with an offensive board from a Pinson miss, dribbling out the shot clock before pulling up and draining a midrange jumper with seven seconds left. 

Moore Jr had a response, rising with a jump hook which found the bottom of the net, putting the hosts up one with two seconds remaining. Mackenzie had a shot to win it, but it fell short and Caledonia took the win. 

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Championship Preview: Riders at Gladiators

Sunday evening will see the Riders complete their second game of British Basketball League Championship Round 7 as they head north to face the 4-2 Caledonia Gladiators.

This will be the first time Rob Paternostro’s team head to Scotland this season, facing a Gladiators squad that boast a three-game winning streak, including a close victory over European competition.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders at Caledonia Gladiators

Playsport, East Kilbride, Glasgow

Sunday, October 29, 6:00pm

Overcoming Adversity

The Riders currently sit fourth in the championship table, holding a 5-3 record following Thursday night’s comeback victory over the visiting Surrey Scorchers.

Leicester’s young squad took the game 94-86, fighting back from an early 23-point deficit to take the win and continue a winning streak over the Scorchers that stretches back 12 years.

‘Mr. Reliable’ Miryne Thomas once again put in a game-winning performance for the Riders, shooting 20 points and pulling in 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games.

The enigmatic Caleb Asberry put in an impressive shift, dropping 17 points on 60% shooting, including three deep balls and experienced guard Connor Washington used his minutes off the bench to great effect, draining two crucial threes that sparked the Riders’ offence into life.

Thursday’s comeback proved that Paternostro’s squad can remain calm under pressure and respond positively when the situation calls for it. 

Beating Surrey might seem par for the course, given the head-to-head record, but the Riders showed grit and a will to win, traits that will serve them well in Sunday’s tilt against the in-form Gladiators.

A Solid Start for Caledonia

Gareth Murray’s squad have started the season in promising form, backing up their winning record in the BBL by going undefeated in Europe.

Victories over Romanian outfit BC CSU Sibia and Anwil Wloclawek from Poland has seen the Gladiators make a flying start to their FIBA Europe Cup campaign.

Caledonia’s two losses came on the road and the Riders will be hard-pressed to win in an arena that is becoming somewhat of a fortress.

The Gladiators are known for their proficiency in reaching missed shots, snagging an average of 38 rebounds per game which is good for second in the league.

This dominance on the boards is largely attributed to the play of the frontcourt duo, Trent Buttrick and club captain Fahro Alihodzic.

Both the American and British/Bosnian are averaging seven rebounds per game and sit inside the Top 10 rebounders in the BBL.

Former Rider Patrick Whelan has also been a positive influence from the wing, knocking down threes at a typically high rate, hitting on over 46% of his shots from beyond the arc.

The trend for Leicester this season shows that when they reach parity on the glass and from three-point range, they win.

Sunday may well continue that trend.

Key Matchup

The battle of the big men under the rim will be crucial in deciding the winner of this fixture, however for Sunday’s key matchup, we’ll be focusing on a pair of playmaking guards.

Riders’ flashy passer Xavier Pinson will have to be on top form if he is to get the better of Caledonia’s wily veteran, Ian DuBose.

Standing at 6’4”, DuBose is a physically gifted guard that backs up his size and strength with efficient shooting and an eye for a pass.

 The American, who has plied his trade in Germany and Denmark, is averaging a solid 15.5 points per game and 4.3 dishes per game, good for a Top 10 place in both categories.

Pinson, who is as automatic from deep range as any player in the BBL, has also demonstrated a nose for the rim and the ability to find an eye-catching pass.

The rookie point guard had another strong game on Thursday, using deft touches in the paint to score 13 points while laying on six assists in a team-centric display.

It will be exciting to see what wins between youth and experience come Sunday night.

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