Riders beat Rebels to progress to playoff semis

Leicester Riders pulled off a comeback in the clutch to beat Essex Rebels 81-79 and progress to the semi finals of the Women’s British Basketball League Playoffs. 

The Riders were down by as much as 21 in the game, and 11 going into the final quarter, but pulled off a comeback led by star guard Taylor O’Brien’s 21 points and 17 rebounds. 

She had 6 rebounds in the fourth, but it was Shahd Abboud’s scoring which lit the fire under Leicester with back-to-back buckets, cutting it to three. Her layup with 52 seconds left proved to be the game winner for the hosts. 

Essex had a red hot start, running out to a 20 point lead in the first quarter, but the Riders chipped away until the fourth and snatched the win. Dayzsha Rogan led the game with 23 points and 9 rebounds, going 10-17 from the field. 

Essex take early lead

A 13-3 Rebels lead to start the game was built from tough shot making inside. Rogan scored 6 points in four minutes, banking in two layups off balance as she drove to the rim. 

After the middle had been established, Renee Busch hit a corner three to make it 13, and force a quick Riders timeout. Essex’s hot first quarter meant they started 22-3, led by 8 points from Rogan.

Marissa Hamilton took the lid off the basket for Leicester with a layup in the post, which was followed by a midrange from Mckenzie Johnston, making it 7-22. 

But after chipping into the deficit, it was back to 19 at the end of one after Tia Freeman was sent to the foul line to end the quarter, making it 11-30. 

Riders charge back into it 

Long range efforts continued to fall for the visitors in the second, keeping Leicester at distance. The Rebels were shooting 50% from three midway through the third, while Jessica Eadsforth-Yates knocked down the host’s second triple with four minutes left in the half. 

However, a run to close the second breathed life into Leicester. Katie Januszewska ran the fastbreak at 2:49 on the clock, driving to the rim and finishing through contact to make it 30-43. Erin Powell was next to chip away with two shots from the foul line, and the deficit was 11. 

Essex stemmed the tide with free throws from Busch, but O’Brien brought her tally to 11 with a tough finish at the rim, and Januszewska finished the half with a triple to enter the locker rooms down 39-50. 

Forced to fight back

Essex refound their early form to start the second half, building their lead back to 18. Rogan added two more buckets to her tally to shoulder the scoring load, continuing to battle in the paint. 

They had no answer for O’Brien, however, who kept the Riders’ side of the scoreboard ticking over and bringing her points total to 16. 

Building on their point guard’s play, the Riders fought their way back in it, forcing back-to-back turnovers in the closing seconds of the third. 

Abboud and O’Brien punished the mistakes, and Leicester went on a 9-0 run at the end of the quarter to make it 55-66 with one to play. 

Riders charge into the lead

Hamilton got the fourth underway with back-to-back scores, cutting the deficit to single digits for the first time since the opening stages. 

The Riders dominated the offensive glass from the backcourt through Eadsforth-Yates and Johnston, grabbing three in the first two minutes, and Johnston hit from the foul line after her second offensive board to make it 61-66. 

Essex slowed the Riders’ charge with a three from Claire Paxton, but Abboud responded from distance on two straight plays, making it a one possession game. Johnston then tied it up from the foul line, and Eadsforth-Yates drained a three to snatch the lead for Leicester. 

Winning a battle in the clutch 

Essex steadied themselves to regain the lead, Daniella Turner hitting back-to-back to put them up three.

But the Riders, through Januzsewska’s up and under for two, kept in the game, and Hamilton’s block leading to a shot clock violation gave them a chance to get ahead with under a minute on the clock. 

Abboud, again, drove to the hole and finished for two to capitalise on that chance, before Januzsewska stole the resulting inbound. She then pulled down an offensive rebound from an Eadsforth-Yates miss, but couldn’t put in the putback and the Rebels had a chance to win it. 

The shot fell to Paxton, but her three hit iron. O’Brien pulled down her 17th rebound, and she was sent to the line with 0.2 on the clock. She made one and missed the second, ending the game and winning it for Leicester. 

Heading to the capital

The Riders will head to the capital to face the undefeated London Lions in the semi final. A win would see them progress to the Final at the O2 Arena on May 19.

Playoff preview: Leicester Riders vs Essex Rebels

Leicester Riders are set to tip-off their 2024 Playoff campaign at the Mattioli Arena against Essex Rebels. 

The Riders enter the postseason as the 4-seed, finishing 15-5 in the Championship. Meanwhile the Rebels’ 11-9 record earned them the 5-seed following their trip to the Trophy Final in January. 

Here’s what to expect from the matchup.

Fixture information

Leicester Riders vs Essex Rebels 

Mattioli Arena, Leicester

Women’s British Basketball League Playoff Quarter-Finals

2:45 pm

One to watch

Kat Tudor

18.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists

American guard Kat Tudor is Essex’s leading scorer this season. She ended the season as the fourth leading scorer in the Women’s British Basketball League, and shot the best from the field of anyone in the top eight of the scoring charts at 46.3%. 

The 25-year-old joined the Rebels from Australian NBL1 West side Mandura Magic, where she was the second-leading score on the team with 15.6 points. 

Her scoring ability translated seamlessly to British basketball. She scored in double digits in every game this season, and averaged 28.5 over her last two Championship games. 

Tudor’s best performance of the season, 31/5 on 80% FG shooting, came in her penultimate game against Oaklands Wolves, heating up in time for the postseason.

She went 6-7 from three in that game, and is capable of catching a heater from deep on any night. She shot 7-12 against the Giants and 5-9 against the Riders earlier in the season.

Tudor also shot 5-6 from three on her way to 24 points to knock the Riders out of the Trophy in January, and will look for another red hot game as the Rebels get their Playoffs underway. 

Season series

In all competitions, the Riders won the season series against the Rebels 2-1. It was 2-0 in the Championship season, the Riders winning by an average of 8.5 in two closely fought games, but the Rebels won in a win-or-go-home Trophy game 84-70. 

Game one, played in Essex, was a 79-70 Riders win, led by Taylor O’Brien’s 20 points and Rayven Peeples’ 17. It was a closely fought affair, with a four point difference on the scorebaord with three minutes on the clock, but captain Mckenzie Johnston’s 6 points in the final minutes saw the Riders over the line. 

Kat Tudor’s game-high 25 points wasn’t enough for Essex, but 24 in the next game was. Tudor shot 6-7 from the field, 5-6 from three and 7-9 from the foul line in a red hot shooting night to progress past the Riders in the Trophy. 

The Riders were down by as much as 24 in the game, but pulled it back to six late in the fourth. However, five straight points from Tudor ended the Riders comeback, and their Trophy journey in the first round. 

The Riders’ revenge came in April, playing Essex at home for the first time. They won 60-52, Johnston leading Leicester with 15 points. The hosts led wire-to-wire, and by as much as 17 points in the third.

But a run at the end of the quarter saw the Rebels enter the fourth down only 46-40. Johnston, again, put the team on her back late to score six in the final two minutes of play, leading Leicester to a win. 

Battle on the boards

The rebounding battle was pivotal to the Riders’ success against Essex this season. In their two wins, they outrebounded their opponents 55-36.5, and by 16.5-5.1 on the offensive glass. The Riders rebounded by committee on the defensive end to complete defensive possessions repeatedly. 

However, in Essex’s Trophy win, they found joy on the boards for the first time against the Riders. They pulled down 47 to Leicester’s 38, and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to Leicester’s 11. 

The Riders, as the third best rebounders in the League this season, aren’t accustomed to losing the rebounding battle often, so winning on the glass will be pivotal to their success in this one. 

Where to watch

Tickets are on sale now for the Riders men’s and women’s playoff games at the Mattioli Arena. 

Doors open at 2:15 for a 2:45 women’s tip off, followed by the men’s tip off at 6:45.

READ MORE: Playoff Preview: Leicester Riders vs Sheffield Sharks Game Two

Thanks to the generosity of the Riders’ sponsors at RDL Technologies, Vertu Motors, Torr Waterfield, Jelson Homes and EverythingBranded, the first 1,200 fans through the door will receive a free “Dark Horse” playoff t-shirt. 

Get tickets here!

The game will also be shown live on the Women’s British Basketball League YouTube channel.

Report: Riders fall short of a comeback against Rebels

The Riders fell out of the Women’s British Basketball League Trophy, losing to the Essex Rebels 84-70 on the road. 

Leicester fell into a 17-point hole early after a slow start, and were down 23 to start the final quarter. 

They came storming back into it, cutting the deficit to six with 3:39 left after a three-point explosion from Taylor O’Brien. But it was too little, too late, and the Rebels knocked down late free throws to progress to the semi-final. 

Sam Ashby led the Riders’ scoring with 21 points after putting up 14 in the first half, backed by Mckenzie Johnston’s 18 and O’Brien’s 15. O’Brien hit five threes in the fourth quarter to spark the comeback. 

Katherine Tudor’s monster third quarter meant she led the game with 24 points. The Rebels cooked from deep, shooting 50% from three on the game. 

Ashby got straight to work for Leicester from the tip, attacking the hoop on the team’s first three possessions for a return of four points. Ashby scored the Riders’ first six, getting to the line with 7:24 left to tie the game. 

Despite the GB international’s play, it was Essex who took the early initiative. Rebel’s star guard Katherine Tudor drained the team’s second three of the game to make it 14-6. 

It was quickly 19-8 with 4:15 left in the first, forcing Head Coach Ben Stanley to call his first timeout. But the Riders had no answer for the Rebels’ physically inside throughout the first. Their opponents scored 20 points in the paint and led 31-14 after one.

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates got the second quarter going for Leicester with a triple from the top of the arc. Ashby followed up from the same spot before nailing another on the next play as the Riders began to chip into the deficit. 

But Essex hit back, and burst back out to a 20 point lead. Megan Haines’ three for her 11th points capped off an 8-0 run with 4:49 remaining in the half. 

It was Leicester’s captain, Johnston, who led the charge going into the break. She scored eight in the second quarter, and cut it to a 13-point game after Katie Januszewska blocked Claire Paxton’s three-point attempt. 

The final score of the half was Essex’s Dayzsha Rogan pulling up from midrange, and the sides entered the locker rooms with the hosts up 48-33. 

Johnston got right back to it in the third, pulling up in the lane to make the first basket of the second half. But a red-hot Rebels team kept gunning from deep, Tudor hitting three triples in as many minutes. 

Another three from Tudor with 3:42 left in the third rebuilt their advantage to 20. Johnston kept battling, scoring another eight points to bring her game tally to 16, but turnovers cost the Riders throughout the quarter, keeping the Rebels out of reach. 

Rogan finished the quarter at the foul line, making it 71-48. 

The Riders battled back in the final quarter, Taylor O’Brien connecting from deep to cut the deficit to 15. She fired again with 6”30 remaining, making the score 72-59. 

O’Brien caught fire, knocking down her third triple of the period with 4:40 left in the game to bring the score to 75-65. Johnston then drove to the hole and made it a single-digit affair for the first time since the first quarter. 

O’Brien pulled up from deep again and cut it to six, forcing an Essex timeout with 3:39 remaining. 

But the timeout stalled the Riders offence, and the Rebels had enough to hang on in the closing stages by making their free-throws. 

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Cardiff Met Archers on Febuary 10!

Trophy Preview: Riders at Rebels

The Riders return from their winter break to tip off their Women’s British Basketball League Betty Codona Trophy campaign on the road against the Essex Rebels. 

They enter the competition at the quarter-final stage- last year’s finalists received a BYE for the first round of the competition. 

Here’s how the teams shape up…

Fixture information

Leicester Riders at Essex Rebels

Essex Sports Arena

Saturday, January 13, 4 pm

Back after the break

The Riders last played on December 9, and are now set to take on the same opponents in the same building. 

They concluded their pre-winter campaign with a 79-70 win on the road to Essex, led by 20 points from star guard Taylor O’Brien. 

The Riders are one of two teams with a single loss in the Championship this season, their only defeat coming on the road to the undefeated London Lions. They’re 5-1, with the second-best points production in the League. 

Tay leading the way

O’Brien has hit the ground running in Riders red, leading the team in scoring on the season. She’s scoring 19.7 points per game, the second-highest scorer in the League through six games, getting her points on 46.4% shooting from the field. 

Her efforts in November saw her named Women’s British Basketball League Player of the Month, averaging 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 61.7% shooting from the field. 

The American guard signed from Flordia State, having averaged 6.7 points for the Seminoles last season. 

She has established herself as one of the stars of British basketball and will look to lead the team to the Trophy final this year. 

Want to see Taylor in the British Basketball League All-Star game?

Vote here!

Battle in the backcourt

Facing off against O’Brien is fellow American Katherine Tudor, who went off for a game-high 23 points last time out against Leicester. 

Tudor signed in Essex in the offseason and leads the team’s scoring with 18.3 points per game. 

The 25-year-old signed from Australian NBL1 West side Mandura Magic, where she averaged 15.6 points per game last season across 22 NBL games, the second-highest points average amongst the team.

Her best scoring performance of the season came against the Riders, and the ever-consistent scoring threat will look to match O’Brien in this one. 

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Cardiff Met Archers on February 10!

Report: Riders win a battle in Essex

The Riders improved to 5-1 after defeating the Essex Rebels 79-70 in a hard-fought road encounter. 

Rayven Peeples dominated late, scoring seven in the final quarter on her way to 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Taylor O’Brien led the Riders with 19 points and 5 rebounds, after being named Women’s British Basketball League Player of the Month earlier in the day. 

Leicester were forced to fight for the win, never leading by double digits in the game. They found form late on to seal it after leading all through the second half.

Star guard Kat Tudor led the game with 23 points and 9 rebounds, catching fire from deep to shoot 5-9. The Rebels hit big shots to keep within striking distance, but couldn’t overcome Rayven’s power in the paint. 

On the road against an in-form Rebels outfit, the Riders exchanged buckets with Essex early. Scottish forward Claire Paxton scored five quick points for the Rebels, matched by GB international Sam Ashby for the visitors through the opening five minutes. 

For her seventh points, Ashby’s quick cut to the basket was found by Taylor O’Brien’s handoff for the highlight of the first quarter. Leicester found success by attacking the hoop off the ball throughout. 

After seven first-quarter lead changes, the Riders led 21-19 following Dayzsha Rogan’s blown breakaway layup to end it. 

Missed open threes were the story of the second for the Riders. The team got good looks from deep but only connected on one of their six open attempts as the Rebels remained in the game. 

O’Brien took the reigns as the clock ticked down to the half. She scored seven in the quarter to bring her game tally to a team-high 12. 

With little between the sides, Shahid Abboud caught fire for five quick points to give the Riders their biggest lead of the game at 42-35. She knocked down a three, then drove into the teeth of the Rebels’ defence and sank a floater in the lane. 

Essex hit back to close the half at the hands of their leading scorer on the season Kat Tudor, before Paxton hit two free throws to make it 42-39 in Leicester’s favour going into the locker rooms. 

Rayven Peeples took over the scoring load to behind the second half, as the Riders played from in front. She scored six straight points in three minutes, concluded by a tough finish through contact. 

With the three ball still not dropping, the Riders found ways to consistently get to the bucket and keep the scoreboard ticking over. But once again, the Rebels found form late in the quarter to bring it back to a possession with four straight points. 

Peepes continued to impress in the fourth, driving to her right and finishing through a foul for an and-one play. O’Brien followed up her teammate with a three to extend the Riders’ lead to six. 

Peeples extended the lead to nine with five minutes remaining in the game with eight of the Riders’ first 10 points in the final quarter of action. The American rookie put Leicester in good stead to see the game out. 

Tudor found a response for the Rebels with their first triple of the fourth, and her game-high 23rd points of the afternoon. 

But the Riders had enough to get over the line, as Peeples continued to battle down low with no answer defensively from Essex. 

Mckenzie Johnston’s layup inside was the dagger, sealing Leicester their fifth win of the season. 

The Riders can now enjoy a winter break, returning to action on Febuary 10th to take on the Cardiff Met Archers at home.

Get tickets here!

Preview: Riders at Rebels

Leicester Riders look to bounce back after their first defeat of the season, as they head to the South East to face the Essex Rebels. 

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Essex Rebels

Essex Sports Arena

Saturday, December 9, 4pm

Falling in the capital 

The Riders fell for the first time in the 2023/24 Women’s British Basketball League season, taking a 77-61 defeat to the back-to-back quadruple-winning London Lions. 

The Riders played the Lions the toughest of all of their opponents early in the season in a spirited performance, but London’s firepower proved too much for Leicester from the offset. 

Rayven Peeples put in an impressive performance in the capital for the Riders, leading the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Peeples grabbed seven boards on the offensive glass to buy the Riders second chances throughout. 

She ranks third in the League in rebounds per game, putting herself among Britain’s best on the boards. 

It’s been a successful start to the season for the Riders through five games, as they’ve put themselves in the mix at the top of the table with a 4-1 record. Led by Peeples, they rank top of the offensive rebounding and blocks per game charts, their force in the interior leading to four straight wins to start the season. 

They’ll want to get straight back to winning ways against Essex to maintain the momentum built from the opening tip-off. 

Rebels looking competitive

 10-12 record left the Rebels sixth in the standings last season, facing the Riders in the first round of the playoffs. They fell in a close one, the Riders edging the tie 83-80 in an overtime thriller, with Essex coming close to an upset win. 

They’ve seen a plethora of players join the team in the offseason, most notably American guard Kat Tudor who leads the Rebels’ scoring on the season with 20.3 points per game. 

The roster changes have led them to a .500 start to the season, sitting with a 2-2 record through four games. Their losses this season have come at the hands of the undefeated London Lions and Caledonia Gladiators in a tough schedule to strat the season. 

Last time out, they played the Gladiators tough in a 69-61 road defeat. It was a five-point game with under a minute remaining, with the hosts finding enough late to get over the line, but the Rebels showed they can compete with the elite teams in the league on any given night. 

They’ll need the same level of play in this one to avoid falling below .500. 

Key matchup 

A battle between Americans in the backcourt awaits in this one, as two of the top four scorers in the Women’s British Basketball League go face to face in Essex.

For Essex, Kat Tudor has hit the ground running to lead the Rebels early in the season. The California native signed from  Australian NBL1 West side Mandura Magic, where she averaged 15.6 points per game last season, ranking second on her team. 

Tudor’s four-year college career at Oregon State University saw her put up 8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds, shooting at over 40% from three. She finished third in program history in career 3-pointers and fourth in career 3-point percentage. 

The 25-year-old’s elite three-point shooting has carried over to the South East. Tudor his hitting her triples at a 45.9% rate, the best of anyone who has taken over 20. 

Faced with the task of slowing her down is Taylor O’Brien, who has had a similarly impressive start to her first season in British Basketball. 

She leads the Riders with 19.6 points per game, putting up 20 points on three occasions through five games. 

O’Brien signed from Flordia State, having averaged 6.7 points for the Seminoles last season. 

She spent four years prior at Bucknell University, leading the team in scoring for two straight seasons and earning a place on the All-Patriot League First team for 2021 and 2022. The Pennsylvania native averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in her final season with the Bison. 

O’Brien also owns Bucknell’s record in the outdoor high jump and was named to the second Team All-Patriot League with a runner-up finish in the 2019 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

She’ll look to counteract Tudor’s shooting with her speed and athleticism in this battle in the backcourt.