Jaren Holmes reflects on the weekend’s action

Leicester Riders are the back of a 1-1 weekend, where they faced the top two ranked teams in the British Basketball League Championship standings. 

They kicked off with a hard-fought 101-93 victory against Cheshire Phoenix, handing them their first loss in 2024. 

On Sunday, they headed to London to face the league champion Lions, falling 105-89. 

Riders All-Star guard Jaren Holmes reflected on the weekend of play… 

Overcoming adversity 

The Riders pulled out the win against Cheshire in the face of adversity. They fell in a 20-2 hole to start the game and battled back to tie it in the second quarter.

Their leading scorer, Teddy Allen, then picked up a double technical foul as the game approached the half, and their captain, Kimbal Mackenzie, picked up a second unsportsmanlike foul in the third quarter. 

Despite all of that, playing against a team they were yet to beat this season, they rallied to grind out a win. 

“It shows our competitive nature,” reflected Holmes, who went off for 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in the game. 

“We had to have a next man up mentality, and we have a great group of guys that love to play the game and compete. It showed that night. 

“When Kimbal and Teddy were ejected, we took a breath and continued to play our game. Guys stepped up and it showed in those moments. We have a lot of talent on this team.”

Despite falling in a big hole early, the home crowd willed their team to the win with infectious energy all night. 

“There was a great energy in the building, and our team really fed off it,” said Head Coach Rob Paternostro after the game, and Holmes seconded that sentiment.

“The crowd had a huge impact. They willed us to it. They kept getting louder and louder, and bringing that positivity. It truly helped me throughout the entire game. It was an exciting game overall, and they made it fun. They were world-class.

“I think it was our best win of the year so far.”

Battling in the capital

The second quarter is where the damage was done against the Lions. They lost the second 33-14, heading into halftime down 19. 

“Playing London, you have to hit shots and get back in transition. We missed a few shots in a row and they ended up with two threes. Those are swings you can’t have when you come up against a team that talented,” said Holmes. 

Despite the loss, the Riders won the other three quarters by five, fighting wire to wire despite the heavy deficit. 

“There are always positives to take from games. Kimbal had to sit out in the second quarter, and Conner [Washington] stepped up to lead the point.

“It showed his ability to step up in the big moments. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we didn’t skip a beat. The offence continued to flow, we played hard until the end. 

“We were up against a good team who are in the playoffs of the EuroCup. There are moments where anyone can be beaten, so if you keep knocking on that door, it’s going to open.”

Ready to bounce back in Bristol 

The Riders are back in action on Sunday, heading to Bristol to face the Flyers. 

The last time the sides met in Championship action, the Flyers took an 87-81 win in Leicester. The Riders took revenge in the next meeting, winning 95-74 in the British Basketball League Trophy. 

“They’re a great team, coached well with dynamic players,” commented Holmes on his next opponent. 

They’re up in your face and they press most of the game. We have to take care of the ball because they thrive in transition, and then limit their three-point opportunities in the half-court.”

The Flyers lead the league in rebounds per game in the Championship this season and pull down the most offensive boards in the League as well. Their All-Star centre, Brad Greene, leads all players in rebounding with 10.2 a game and is averaging a double-double this season. 

“They rebound extremely well, especially on the offensive end,” said Holmes. “We have to keep them off the glass. Rebounding is absolutely the emphasis this week.

It’s not just Greene, They all crash and help him, so we have to find ways to create two-on-one against him and  take him out of the play when the ball comes off the rim.”

The sides play at opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to their play style. Leicester play at the fastest pace of any team this season, and Bristol at the second slowest. 

Holmes says it’s important to establish the game at Leicester’s tempo. 

“We have to trust in the work we have, not change who we are regardless of who is in front of us. We want to push the pace, get up shots and play together as a team.” 

The game tips off on Sunday, March 10, at 2 pm. You can watch the action live here, on the British Basketball League Youtube channel!

Report: Riders grind out gritty win against Cheshire

Leicester Riders pulled off a gritty 101-93 win against Cheshire Phoenix, snapping the visitor’s undefeated streak in 2024. 

The entire Riders unit stepped up after the League’s leading scorer, Teddy Allen, and Leicester’s captain Kimbal Mackenzie were ejected from the game. 

TJ Lall topped the team’s scoring off the bench with 22 points, backed by Miryne Thomas’ who had 19 and exploded out of the half following Allen’s ejection. 

Leicester were red hot from three, shooting 47% from deep on the game led by Lall and Thomas who combined for six. 

Aaryn Rai led the game with 28 points, fighting wire to wire in his team’s effort. But they couldn’t overcome a spirited Riders effort, backed by a raucous home crowd.  

Starting slow

Leicester weren’t just faced with the adversity of two ejections. They started slow, falling in a 20-2 hole in the first quarter. 

Rai scored 8 points to start the game, and Leicester turned the ball over four times in three minutes in a stuttering start. 

Thomas took the lid off the basket with a score at the rim to make it 20-4.  One score was all it took for the Riders to find form, and Lall sank a corner triple to make it 20-9 with 4:10 left in the first.  

Bouncing back

The Riders rallied, going on a 15-3 run to end the first. Big man Duke Shelton ended the first with a drive to the hoop to make it 23-17, getting Leicester right back in it.

The surge continued in the second, and Sam Idowu grabbed the Riders the lead, as the hosts continued to attack inside. 

The sides were locked in a back-and-forth towards halftime. Jaren Holmes put up seven points in the second quarter to shoulder the scoring load, hitting a corner triple after an Allen behind-the-back pass.

But the big moment in the game came minutes later, as Allen picked up a quick double technical which saw him ejected from the game. With the League’s leading scorer out of the tie, the Phoenix ended the period on a 4-0 run to make it 42-42 at the half. 

Gunning out of the break

Thomas drained a three to settle the Riders into the second half. Leicester started the quarter in a 7-0 run, after three Skyler White misses on the other end. Thomas came out hot, hitting two quick triples to put Leicester up 55-48. 

He brought his game tally to double figures with 3:55 left in the quarter, sinking a tough and-one finish over White. 

Up 10, Leicester battled hard to close the third to keep their opponents at arm’s length. But to close the quarter, Riders captain Mackenzie picked up an unsportsmanlike foul after incidental off ball contact, which saw him out of the game with Allen. 

Battling it out late

The third ended 70-62, the Riders needing heart and hustle to see it out. 

Holmes attacked the hoop for two to start the final quarter, followed by Lall who put Leicester up 12. Lall hit a corner three, assisted by Holmes, before Miryne came down and nailed a triple of his own as the Riders ran away with the tie late. 

Cheshire’s star guard LaQuincey Rideau was the third player thrown out of the game, picking up his fifth and final foul in the fourth.

On the other end, Riders’ veteran Conner Washington stepped up in the absence of Mackenzie and Allen, taking a charge on Cam Christon and finishing a layup through heavy contact with four minutes remaining. 

Lall put the exclamation point on the performance with an explosive one handed jam, sending the Riders fans into raptures and sealing the win. 

The Riders are back in action on Sunday, heading to London to take on the table topping Lions.

Gallery: Leicester Riders vs Cheshire Phoenix

Pictures from last night’s 101-93 win against Cheshire Phoenix…

Scouting Report: Cheshire Phoenix

Leicester Riders take on the British Basketball League’s only undefeated team in 2024, the Cheshire Phoenix, in their next Championship fixture.

The Phoenix have proved too much to overcome for every opponent this calendar year, including the League leading London Lions who they bested in the Trophy final.

Here have been the keys to their success…

Running the Fastbreak

Cheshire plays fast, with willing runners going coast to coast in transition at the highest rate of any team in the British basketball League. 

The Phoenix lead the League in fast break points with 18.97 per game, and get their opportunities on the break often by topping the points from turnovers charts with 16.77 per game 

Their ability to get buckets in transition stems from their ball pressure on the defensive end, where they rank first in steals with 8.53. 

Trophy Final MVP Laquincy Rideau has been key to getting the Phoenix on the run. The American point guard is first among all players in steals this season with 3.1 per game in his first season in the British Basketball League.

He also leads the League in assists with 6.8 per game, pushing the pace in transition and dishing off to his teammates on the run for easy buckets. 

Good shot selection and hustle in transition will be key to keeping Cheshire in the halfcourt in this one, and prevent easy baskets on the break. 

Offensive rebounding 

As well as getting easy looks on the break, the Phoenix crash the glass for second chance points to generate their offence. 

Cheshire ranks second, behind the Bristol Flyers, in offensive rebounding with 13.57 per game, leading to a League-high 11.80 second chance points per game. 

Front court pairing Ethan Chargois and Arryn Rai lead the effort on the glass, grabbing 2.5 and 2.4 offensive rebounds per game respectively. They both rank in the top 10 among all players in that department, their two pronged attack making it difficult to box out from missed Phoenix shots. 

The Riders have multiple players willing to do the work on the glass, from the League’s leading scorer Teddy Allen who pulls down a team-high 6.7 boards per game, to the Riders’ depth at the big position of Mo Walker, Sam Idowu and Duke Shelton who all take pride in their rebounding efforts. 

With the Phoenix shooting at a 45.55 % rate on the season- third best of all teams- the Riders cannot afford to give them second looks at the hoop. 

Points in the paint

Cheshire’s speed in transition, offensive rebounding and halfcourt approach means they rank second in the League in points in the paint. The Phoenix score 39.73 points in the paint per game, led by stars who relentlessly attack the hoop. 

Arryn Rai has been key to the offensive playstyle. The new acquisition from the NBL in the offseason is the team’s leading scorer and a top five scorer in the League with 18.3 points per game. 

Rai attempts 8.2 shots from within the arc per game, connecting on 62.2% of his looks in close.

This ranks third in the League of those who have taken over 100 shots. Rai’s aggressive drives to the rim opens up shots for teammates and draws fouls on opponents, highlighting the emphasis on the Riders being able to contest without fouling. 

The Riders have bodies to throw at Rai in the paint, but staying in front of the talented wing may be key to preventing a big scoring night. Cutting off Rai’s drives to the rim will be tasked with the Riders premier perimeter defenders, who are in for an intense night to limit Rai’s effectiveness.

We need you there!

The team need your help to get over the line in this one!

Get tickets here to get behind your Riders!

Key matchups: Leicester Riders vs Cheshire Phoenix

Leicester Riders take on the Cheshire Phoenix on Friday, in an important clash for the team.

The star-studded fixture features three All-Star starters, and some of the best talent the League has to offer going head to head.

Here, we take a look at the key matchups in the game…

Aaryn Rai vs Teddy Allen

Last season’s NBL Player of the Year, Aaryn Rai, has established himself as one of the League’s best in his step up to the British Basketball League. 

The Canadian wing ranks top five in scoring (17.38 points per game), sixth in rebounding (7 per game) and top 10 in field goal percentage (56.47%), as well as knocking down his threes at a red hot 41% rate. 

Rai leads the League in three point percentage from the top of arc, finding success pulling up in transition and losing his defenders at the top of the three point line. 

He has also relentlessly attacked the rim all season long, and his willingness to push the tempo in transition has been key to Cheshire’s high-paced, fastbreak offensive approach. 

Rai has exploded for huge games this season, the biggest of which was a 32 point outing against the London Lions. But he’ll be faced with the tall task of keeping up with the League’s leading scorer- Teddy Allen. 

Allen enters this game after back-to-back 35 point performances. Only two players have scored more points in their first eight Championship games. Allen has averaged 26.4 points per game in the League so far, and will look to continue to rack up the points in an attempt to overcome the Phoenix.

Laquincy Rideau vs Kimbal Mackenzie

Laquincy Rideau was instrumental to Cheshire’s Trophy success, hitting the game winning layup against the Riders in the Final Four, and winning Final MVP with 25 points and 10 rebounds against London Lions. 

He has been the League’s true point guard, leading all players in assists (6.8 per game) and steals (3 per game), making his impact felt on both ends of the ball. 

Rideau pulls the strings for Cheshire, and has logged double digit assists seven times this season. This has contributed to his seven double doubles so far, three of which coming against the Riders. 

He battled down the stretch with Riders captain Kimbal Mackenzie in the Trophy, Rideau having the final say on that occasion, but Mackenzie has stepped up consistently in the clutch for the Riders over the past few seasons, and will look to again when his number is called. 

He led the team down the stretch in a clutch win against Caledonia Gladiators, scoring six points in the final two minutes, and has hit a rich vein of form of late. 

Mackenzie had scored 15+ in his last three games, earning Player of the Game with his 21 point performance against the Gladiators. 

The Canadian has been a killer from midrange, getting to his sports consistently and connecting on over 50% of his looks. Expect a back-and-forth between him and Rideau from the backcourt in this one. 

Skyler White vs Sam Idowu 

A Cheshire weapon that has been effective against the Riders this season has been stretch four Skyler White, who has put up big numbers from behind the arc. 

Two of his best games of the season were against the Riders, the first a 22 point outing on opening night, and 23 points in the Trophy Final Four. 

White hit a combined 13 threes in those games, and chucked up 31. His high volume of three point attempts mean the Riders have to close out when he drifts to the perimeter. 

Sizing him up in the front court will be Sam Idowu, a versatile forward who is more than comfortable stepping up to the outside. 

Idowu has a versatile game on both ends, capable of hitting the three, taking defenders off the dribble and working in the post down low. He has the size to challenge White when he goes to work in the paint, and the athleticism and perimeter defence to follow him out to the three point line and contest his three point attempts. 

Idowu has enjoyed good form over the last few months, and went off for 20 against Plymouth City Patriots on February 9. The matchup at the forward position has been a significant factor between the sides this season, and it could be no different in this one.

We need you there!

The team need your help to get over the line in this one!

Get tickets here to get behind your Riders!

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! 

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Report: Riders fall on the road to the Phoenix

The Riders fell 87-83 on the road to the Cheshire Phoenix to drop their record to 7-9. 

They looked in control of the tie going into the fourth, but the Phoenix won the final period 25-8 as the Riders took their second straight loss. 

Leicester’s TJ Lall led the game with 24 points, going 5-7 from deep and cooking in the third quarter to build a lead. But the Riders’ offence stalled in the final quarter, while Cheshire took 16 foul shots to get points on the board. 

Laquincy Rideau led the Phoenix with 22, as four of their starters put up double-digit points. Rideau accompanied his scoring with 10 rebounds and eight assists in a near-triple double performance.

After a 6-0 Phoenix start, the Riders relied on their captain Kimbal Mackenzie to steady the ship and get the team’s first six points on the board.

The Riders found joy at the basket to generate their offence as they edged a narrow lead. They had seven scorers in the first quarter, which was concluded by Lall who made it 26-19 with a reverse at the rim. 

The hosts came back into it in the second, draining their shots from distance at the hot hands of American guard Maceo Jack. The sides engaged in a back and forth, trading buckets up to the half. Sam Idowu hustled hard to bring his quarter tally to six points and a monster block on Rideau. 

There was nothing in it going into the locker rooms, the Riders edging a 45-44 lead at the half led by nine from Mackenzie. 

Lall took over to start the second half, scoring 10 points in five minutes including three triples. Miryne Thomas followed up his teammates from range to extend the visitor’s lead to eight. 

Lall made it a double digit advantage with two minutes left in the quarter with another three point bomb, brining his tally on the game to 22. Holding a 13 point lead, the Riders were in control with one to play. 

The Phoenix started the final quarter 8-2 to get themselves back into the tie. Jaren Holmes stepped up to stem the tide for Leicester, driving into the lane to string a floater, but Cheshire brought it to a three point game with four straight trips to the free throw line. 

They tied it up on the following possession with a three from EJ Stephens, and took the lead with an and-one play scored by Aaryn Rai. They went on to extend their lead, Ethan Chargois laying it in from close to make it 85-79 with 1:42 to play.

Mackenzie drained a long two to keep the Riders in with a chance of the win, but a 50/50 out of bounds call went Cheshire’s way with eight seconds left to seal the win for the hosts. 

The Riders are back in action next Sunday, taking on the London Lions in the capital.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Caledonia Gladiators!

Championship Preview: Riders at Phoenix

Sunday evening sees the Riders travel northwest to Cheshire as they take on the Phoenix in Round 12 of the British Basketball League Championship.

It will be the second game of a weekend double-header for Rob Paternostro’s squad after a spirited 89-79 defeat to the London Lions on Friday night.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Cheshire Phoenix

Ellesmere Port Sports Village, Cheshire Oaks

Sunday, December 3, 6:00pm

Riders Looking to Play Smart

After Friday’s defeat to the league leaders, Paternostro expressed the need for the Riders to play smartly if they are to claim victory in Cheshire. The Phoenix have only lost once at home since October 1 and have won five of their last six in the league.

 Every member of the Riders’ squad should expect significant minutes on the floor and will need to make the most of them.

One player that made the best of his opportunity against the Lions was recent signing Sesan Russell. The British two-guard drove his team forwards in the second half, coming off the bench to score 13 points in just 14 minutes.

The Florida Tech University graduate also flashed his playmaking ability, dishing four assists to add to his scoring.

Young forward Victor Ndoukou may also need to step up against the Phoenix as his minutes have increased since the reshuffling of the Riders’ roster.

The 6’8” man from Wigan has bags of potential, representing Great Britain at under-20’s level last summer. Now could be the time for Ndoukou to start realising that promise.

The Phoenix, who sit second in the BBL standings, are excellent on the offensive side of the ball. The Riders’ defence has improved over the past two games, largely down to high effort plays from the likes of Russell and Ndoukou.

That hustle will be needed once more on Sunday night.

Phoenix in Great Form

Cheshire have been the surprise package of the BBL championship this season. Ben Thomas’ squad play turnover-free basketball which – combined with rampant crashing of the offensive glass – gives his team more chances at buckets than anyone else.

The Phoenix have claimed two victories over the Riders this season. The first a shock road win on the opening weekend of the season, the second a tight 102-96 win at home after a previous Riders’ double-header.

Round 12 is an exact replica of Round 9, with Leicester falling to both London and Cheshire. The Riders will be looking to change history on Sunday with a victory.

Cheshire’s success is largely due to the elite play of dynamic duo Maceo Jack and Aaryn Rai. 

Jack, a tall point guard who play five seasons in college before joining the BBL, has been at the centre of everything good the Phoenix have done this season. The ‘shoot first’ guard stands at 6’5”, making him difficult to guard and tricky to keep off the boards, shown by 18.1 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game this year.

Rai is a big-bodied 6’6” small forward whose speed and ball handling skill belies his size. The former Dartmouth player has added a lethal second scoring option that Cheshire lacked last season, averaging just over 17 points per game.

Keeping the Phoenix’s scoring stars quiet will be priority number one for the Riders’ defence.

Key Matchup

Both teams possess high volume stars such as Jaren Holmes, Kimbal Mackenzie, Jack and Rai, but the most enticing matchup could come between a pair of rangy big men.

Cheshire’s Skylar White has been putting up good numbers this season, dropping over 11 points per contest, pulling down 4.1 rebounds per game and hitting at nearly 85% from the charity stripe.

The 6’8” Brit is an intelligent player, and while he doesn’t possess great speed or athleticism inside the paint, his shooting touch cannot be questioned. White dropped 22 points on the Riders on opening night, so Paternostro will be aware of the danger he poses.

Facing up to the test of White is exciting rookie, Miryne Thomas. 

If White lacks in speed, Thomas has it in abundance. The Cleveland-native has an eye for the spectacular dunk and is adept at freeing space inside for the monster jam. The 6’8” power forward is averaging 12.4 points per night and is hitting over 62% of his shots inside.

Thomas also shows confidence to hit from downtown and shows hustle on the boards, evident in his team-high three double-doubles. #3 is yet to score in double digits against Cheshire this season. If the Riders are to snag the road victory, he may need to set his sights on a fourth double-double.

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Report: Riders fall to Phoenix

The Riders fell on the road 102-96 against the Cheshire Phoenix. 

It was a tie game entering the final quarter, little separating the sides throughout the contest. Cheshire went up 11 with 2:30 to go, but the Riders found a spirited comeback to cut it to a possession with 30 seconds on the clock. 

They went on an 8-0 run led by Samuel Idowu’s three and putback slam to give themselves a chance, and Cheshire’s Laquincy Rideau missed both at the line with the difference only three points. 

But the officials pointed Cheshire’s way on a 50/50 out of bounds call, allowing the hosts to see it out. 

Caleb Asberry continued his hot form after his 16 point performance against the London Lions on Friday night, leading the Riders with a season-high 23 points going 8-12 from the field. 

Iwodu also impressed off the bench throughout with 18 points and seven rebounds, finishing the game with a +/- of 15. 

For Cheshire, American forward Ethan Chargois led the game with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. They took a late advantage with hot shooting to start the fourth, benefitting from a week’s extra rest late. 

Asberry picked up where he left off after his Player of the Game performance against London, scoring the Riders first eight points. But the Phoenix exploded to a hot start, gunning from behind the arc to make their first five three point attempts, going up 10 early. 

The Riders’ second unit checked into the game midway through the first to breath some life into the Riders’ offence. Mo Walker immediately got to work with two quick baskets, before Sam Idowu drove to the rim for an and-one play- Leicester’s frontcourt doing the business inside. 

The bench got the Riders back into the game despite a red hot Chesire offensive start led by 10 points from American forward Ethan Chargois. Walker came up with a block on Rideau with seconds left in the period, setting up an Asberry buzzer beating layup to cut the deficit to four.

Leicester took the game by the reins in the second, starting with two triples from TJ Lall and Kimbal Mackenzie which took their first lead of the game. It was the Riders’ turn to punish their opponents from deep, making four in five minutes. 

The Phoenix hung around in the game, the Riders keeping ahead in the ball game by finding success attacking inside. Mackenzie’s drive to the hoop concluded the half’s action with Leicester leading 55-49. 

Cheshire started the second half the nighter of the sides, running in transition to generate their offesnce in the open floor and snatch back the lead. The Riders fired back in response to reclaim their advantage at the hands of Lall, who scored four quick points inside. 

Lall kickstarted a 7-0 Riders run to give the Riders a five point lead, but a stong end to the quarter from Cheshire’s Aaryn Rai tied it up at 72 with one to play. 

The Phoenix started the fourth hot, attacking the rim to start the quarter 9-1. The Riders battled back, finding their way to the free throw line by driving to the hole to keep it to a six point defecit as the clock ticked down to five remaining in the game. 

But Cheshire closed out strong, hitting big shots down the stretch led by Chargois’ seven point final quarter to secure a win. Asberry and Idowu came up with late threes to bring it back to six, before Idowu threw down a huge putback jam to give Leicester a late chance. 

Mackenzie followed up a missed free throw with a bucket to cut it to a possession, and Rideau missed both after the subsequent foul, but the referee’s gave the out of bounds call Cheshire’s way, allowing them to seal it at the line. 

The loss sent the Riders home empty handed in a closely fought game for the second time in the weekend. They return to action next week on the road against the Sheffield Sharks. 

Championship Preview: Riders at Phoenix

Sunday evening sees the Riders travelling northwest to take on the 7-4 Cheshire Phoenix in the British Basketball League Championship.

It will be the second game of the weekend for Rob Paternostro’s squad after they fell 102-95 to the league-leading London Lions in an epic clash on Friday night.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Cheshire Phoenix

Ellesmere Port Sports Village, Cheshire Oaks

Sunday, November 12, 6:00pm

Close to Victory

The Riders may have been defeated by the Lions on Friday night, but there was plenty of evidence that this squad can beat anyone on their day.

The home side bettered their opponents in several categories, including three-point percentage, points in the paint and rebounds. Victory looked possible, especially during a sustained period in the third quarter which saw the Riders holding onto a narrow lead.

However, what makes the Lions special is the ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over. They very rarely waste a possession, and even as the Riders’ defence forced several missed shots, London’s knack of getting to the foul line told in the final score.

The visitors – who claimed their thirteenth win in fourteen British Basketball League Championship games on Friday – hit 26 points from the free throw line at a clip of 86%, nine more than the Riders who knocked down 16 at an uncharacteristically low 72%.

A major positive for the Riders was the play of shooting guard Caleb Asberry.

The 6’3” Texan balled out on both ends of the court, tormenting the opposition big men with fast hands-on defence, knocking down 16 points on offence and leading the Riders with nine rebounds for good measure.

As Friday’s game went on, the energy of the Morningside Arena grew, and Asberry’s tenacity grew with it.

The in-form Jaren Holmes also had a nice showing, flashing his skills as a playmaker to dish eight assists to go with 18 points for a near double-double.

Leicester scored 95 points on a defence that gives up only 79.5 points per game, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Cheshire is another team that can score the ball, averaging an impressive 88.5 points per game, so the Riders may find themselves needing another total within touching distance of three figures to take victory on the road.

The Surprise Package of the Season

Judging on whispers throughout the pre-season, few around the BBL were predicting the Phoenix to have a hot 7-4 start.

Ben Thomas’ team sit third in the standings on 14 points, playing consistent basketball predicated on a solid defence and dominance on the boards.

The Phoenix are currently pulling down 40.9 rebounds per game and sit second in total rebounds percentage with 54.3% – just behind the 8-4 Bristol Flyers.

That hustle to get to missed shots allows Cheshire to be the most prolific team in the league when on the fast break, hitting 17.9 fast break points each night. The Riders have been susceptible to giving up fast break points this season, so this is sure to be an area of focus for Coach Paternostro.

Top scorer for the Phoenix is guard Maceo Jack, the second-year American having an excellent sophomore season, dropping 18.7 points per night to become one of the most prolific scorers in the league.

Jack is ably supported by big men Aaryn Rai and Skylar White who put up double-digits in points on most outings.

Rai, who has only played in six of the Nix’s 11 games this season, is a 6’6” forward with an eye for a pass. Should he play on Sunday, expect him to be a large part of Cheshire’s offense. 

Key Matchup

Sunday’s key matchup is between two players who bring high-quality minutes from the bench – Cam Christon and Riders’ captain, Kimbal Mackenzie.

Christon, a rookie who joined the BBL this season from the Grambling State Tigers, stands at 6’6” and uses his combination of speed and length to slice inside and finish effectively in the paint.

The Texan has scored close to 20 points on several occasions this season despite second-unit minutes, even dropping 21 points in 23 minutes on the Patriots in an October win.

Riders’ fans may be somewhat familiar with Christon’s ability to score in bunches as he knocked down 16 in just ten minutes on opening day.

A player Riders’ supporters will certainly be familiar with is energetic point guard, Mackenzie. The Leicester veteran is often brought off the bench to galvanise the team when the opposition is on a run or to hit clutch shots in the waning moments of a game.

#1’s presence was felt yet again on Friday night, as he bolted around the court and involved himself in everything positive the Riders produced.

Mackenzie finished the night with 17 points, five assists and managed to draw four trips to the charity stripe.

It is going to be interesting to see when and how both coaches decide to use their second-unit weapons. The player who brings the best from the bench could prove to be the one that wins this game for their team.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against the Manchester Giants on November 25!

Ticket Information: Loughborough Men’s preseason fixtures

Loughborough Riders Men’s tip-off preseason action against BBL opponents, taking on the Leicester Riders and Cheshire Phoenix.

Loughborough will play Leicester in the Sir David Wallace building at the University on August 25, tipping off at 7 pm.

Loughborough will take on the Riders in the annual “Red vs Purple” matchup.

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket typePrice
ID will be required on the door for child and student tickets

We face Cheshire on Saturday, September 2, at the Netball Centre building, tipping off at 3 pm. 

Get your tickets here!

Ticket prices are as follows:

Ticket TypePrice
Child (6-16)£5
Student £2
Family (2 Adult, 2 Child)£15
ID will be required on the door for child and student tickets

Please note, seating is unreserved. 

T&C’s and bookie fees apply