Key Storylines: The final weekend of Championship action

Leicester Riders are fast approaching their final weekend in the 2023-24 British Basketball League Championship.

They face pivotal fixtures in determining their seeding for the postseason, with home court advantage hanging in the balance.

Here are the key storylines for the Riders going into their final two games…

Home court in our hands

The Riders hold pole position for home court advantage in the postseason with two games to go. Wins against the Manchester Giants and Surrey Scorchers would secure fourth place, as the Riders possess the tiebreaker against the Newcastle Eagles and Sheffield Sharks. 

This scenario would see Leicester finish the season in fourth with a 19-17 record, and could potentially see all three contenders for home court advantage finish on the same number of wins. 

The Sharks hold the season series against the Eagles, meaning if all three teams win out it would be Riders vs Sharks in round one of the 2024 Playoffs. 

But above anything, the Riders need to handle business in their final two games, and secure home court with two momentous wins. 

Riders look to build late form

Wins are not a given for the Riders in the two games, who enter this weekend having lost two on the bounce. 

The first was a 91-96 loss to the Eagles in a game where Leicester could have essentially locked up home court after beating the Sharks two games prior. The narrow loss, however, did mean Leicester secured the tiebreaker against their North Eastern rivals. 

Most recently, the Riders fell to the Bristol Flyers 77-89, a big result for Bristol in their mission to secure the seventh seed. 

After a weekend off, and a chance to recover, the Riders will look to lock in, bounce back and build their form going into the postseason. 

Healthy Holmes

The week away from action was significant for the Riders, who can heal any bumps and bruises and get fresh ahead of an important Playoff campaign. 

Head Coach Rob Paternostro echoed that sentiment while looking to the remaining two games of the Championship season. 

“These last couple of weeks are really significant,” he commented. “We want to make sure we’re healthy, and that we understand what our strengths are going into the playoffs. When we have everyone available we have a lot of weapons that can cause huge problems.”

Jaren Holmes, in particular, will benefit from the added recovery time, having spent a number of weeks away from action through injury. 

He returned to the roster in limited minutes last time out, and will look to build back into game shape in the final two games before attacking his first postseason campaign of his professional career. 

Having Holmes back is a major boost, and Leicester will look to maintain a healthy roster in their final two fixtures. 

“In any sport, the healthiest do well in the postseason,” added Paternsotro. “We’re happy to be able to spend some time recovering.”

The last few tickets remain for our final home game of the Championship season against Manchester Giants.

This game will not be broadcast, so get your tickets here to watch the action!

Championship Preview: Riders vs Eagles

Leicester Riders play the Newcastle Eagles for the second of back-to-back games against their North Eastern opponents. 

They will host the Eagles at the Mattioli Arena, Leicester, as the club looks to pack the house.

Here’s how the game is shaping up…

Fixture information 

Leicester Riders vs Newcastle Eagles 

Mattioli Arena, Leicester, 7 pm

Get tickets here! 

Last time out

Last week saw the Riders head to Newcastle to face tomorrow’s opponents, coming away with a 77-55 win. 

Contrary to the scoreline, the game was contested until late. It was a four-point game going into the final quarter, before the Riders won the fourth 30-14 to blow the game open and take home the win. 

Star guard Taylor O’Brien led the team with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, proving the difference in the final quarter with 10 points. 

The Riders’ defence won the day, however, forcing 24 turnovers out of their opponents and holding them to 36% shooting from the field. 

Season so far

The Riders have established themselves as one of the premier teams in the League once again this season. They sit third with a 9-2 record, their two losses coming to the undefeated London Lions, who they are one win behind in the standings. 

They bounced back from a loss to London with three straight wins, beating the Cardiff Met Archers, Durham Palatinates and the Eagles convincingly. 

The Riders have made their trade on the offensive glass this season, leading the League with 14.1 per game. They only grabbed nine last time out against the Eagles, so expect the boards to be a point of emphasis in this one. 

One to watch

Despite her team’s loss, Tierra Hodges led the game with 20 points and 9 rebounds for the Eagles. 

Newcastle’s December signing exploded onto the scene in Newcastle, leading the League in scoring through six games. 

The 5’9” wing is scoring 22.1 points per game, awent off for 30 points on her debut and has failed to score 20 points in just one game for the Eagles. 

Hodges signed in the North East after an outstanding collegiate career at Furman University and an excellent rookie campaign last season in Finland.

In her final college season, she was named first-team all-conference by coaches and media, led the Southern Conference in rebounding with 10.4 per game and ranked third in scoring with 16.2 per game

Championship Preview: Riders at Eagles

The Riders return to action after a winning weekend of action, facing the Newcastle Eagles on the road. 

The 8-2 Riders are coming off back-to-back wins, ready to play an Eagles team that has endured a difficult start to the season. 

Here’s how the teams shape up…

Fixture information 

Leicester Riders at Newcastle Eagles

Saturday, February 17, 7:30 pm

Vertu Motors Arena 

Watch Live!

Two-win weekend 

The Riders are coming off an impressive weekend of wins, beating the Cardiff Met Archers and Durham Palatinates in back-to-back days. 

They won by an average margin of 37 points, making a statement with dominant victories. They won every quarter of the weekend and maintained their pursuit of the top end of the table. 

Rayven Peeples dominated the weekend on the glass, notching two double-doubles on her way to a Team of the Week nomination. She averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds across the two games. 

The Riders, led by Peeples, have set the tone on the glass on their way to eight wins this season. They rank second in rebounding (0.1 rebounds per game behind the top-ranked London Lions) and first in offensive rebounding. 

Playing against an Eagles team who have struggled to pull down boards this season, will play a large factor in the North East. 

Newcastle looking for form 

Having lost the last three Championship fixtures, the Newcastle Eagles are looking for a win to turn their season around. 

Losses to Oaklands Wolves, Essex Rebels and London Lions are responsible for the poor run of fixtures. They enter this game after a loss against the League-leading Lions, who won 102-56 at home. 

They pulled off back-to-back wins against Durham and Cardiff in mid-December, but failed to build off their form to make a rise up the table. 

They have struggled on the boards this season, ranking second-last in offensive rebounds and third-last in defensive rebounds as the Eagles struggle to generate second possession and close defensive ones.

They’ll need to improve in this department to overcome the glass-crashing Leicester Riders. 

Key matchup 

Eagles’ December signing Tierra Hodges has exploded onto the scene in Newcastle, leading the League in scoring through five games. 

The 5’9” wing is scoring 23.2 points per game, went off for 30 points on her debut and has failed to score 20 points in just one game for the Eagles. 

Hodges signed in the North East after an outstanding collegiate career at Furman University and an excellent rookie campaign last season in Finland.

In her final college season, she was named first-team all-conference by coaches and media, led the Southern Conference in rebounding with 10.4 per game and ranked third in scoring with 16.2 per game 

The American’s performances in the British Basketball League earned her the Player of the Month award for December. 

Facing up against her is another Player of the Month, Sam Ashby, who won the award for her efforts in January. 

Ashby balled out against Durham last week, leading the game’s scoring with 21 points, and logged 6 rebounds and 5 steals in the win.

Ashby’s performances this season earned her a spot on the GB roster earlier in the year. She’s averaging 12.9 points per game and ranks fourth in the League in steals with 2.4 per game. 

Expect this battle from the wing position to play a significant role in the outcome of this clash.  

Riders beat Eagles to punch their ticket to the Trophy Final Four

The Riders deservedly reached the British Basketball League Trophy semi-finals tonight after a clinical 101-85 road victory over the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

Rob Paternostro utilised his squad’s depth perfectly, taking advantage of the depleted Eagles roster that is plagued with the injury bug.

Leicester’s bench contributed an impressive 40 points, led by big man Samuel Idowu who dropped 17 points in a display that perfectly demonstrates what he brings from the sideline.

Captain Kimbal Mackenzie also proved he can still be the main man under pressure, top-scoring with 22 points, pulling down six rebounds and dishing out eight assists.

TJ Lall and new man Duke Shelton also showed nice flashes, Lall hitting his customary near double-double going 14 and eight, with Shelton – a former Eagle – protecting the rim with some authoritative blocks.

Newcastle’s shortened rotation showed plenty of endeavour, the enigmatic Tajh Green mixing up trey-balls with rim-rattling dunks, and Larry Austin Jr displayed his rabid competitiveness on both ends of the court.

In the end, the Riders’ strength in depth was too much for the home side, and the win sees Leicester travelling to the Utilita Arena in Birmingham for the Trophy Finals Weekend.

As is often the case in the Vertu Motors cauldron, Newcastle hit the ground running, crashing out of the locker room to hit seven unanswered points in the first minute.

A Green triple kicked things off, followed by an Austin Jr layup and capped with a thunderous dunk from Newcastle’s power forward (11 first-half points).

A quick timeout was taken by Paternostro and his decision bore immediate fruit as Mackenzie pulled up for a three after causing Jordan Johnson to slip.

Both teams suddenly got hot, with every Eagles bucket being matched by the Riders.

Leicester’s captain got his second bucket with a nice layup, then Mo Walker found rare space beyond the arc to hit a triple of his own.

The net kept swishing as Teddy Allen, Miryne Thomas and Jaren Holmes all found the hot hand. Then Idowu stepped onto the court.

The second-unit star instantly made his presence felt, driving the Riders forward with aggression on both ends of the court.

The big man opened his account with a quick hit at the rim, bettering that finish with an ‘and one’ play before pulling up from three and showing his range. Idowu’s 12 first half points were a just reward for his impact from the bench.

The hot streak saw the Riders come back from the early deficit, and after taking their first lead of the game with a Thomas trey, pulled ahead of the home side.

Great defence and a lethal touch in transition saw the Riders hit 37 first quarter points and boasting a comfortable lead.

The second ten minutes told a slightly different story, as both teams locked down on defence, forcing multiple runs of missed shots.

The turnover bug also plagued the Riders, who ended the first half with ten giveaways to the Eagles’ four.

The quarter began with a much-needed Rickey McGill bucket, answered by ‘Buckets’ Allen after a nicely timed block from Lall.

Allen soon added to his total and – with Idowu and Shelton protecting the rim diligently – the lead remained a significant one.

However, galvanised by Green and Johnson, the Eagles started slowly crawling back into the game.

The lead eventually cut to single-figures and, despite Allen hitting picturesque floaters and making a one-handed offensive rebound to transition into a layup, the Eagles were back within six.

The crowd got to their feet after the 39-year-old Darius Defoe stole the ball and embarked upon a fast break that belied his years, but Lall immediately settled things down with an athletic ‘and one’ play.

The entertaining half wound down with the Riders in front, 55-49.

Leicester started the crucial second half in great fashion, showing quick hands on defence which was rewarded with a pull up and pop triple from Thomas.

The Eagles were displaying a fighting spirit, but after Green had to sit down for his third personal foul, a Mackenzie running triple saw Leicester breach 60 points.

The three was soon answered by Johnson though, and the tension in the building began to hang heavy.

One thing that remained consistent was the Riders’ protection at the rim, and during a prolonged period of missed shots and mistakes, solid defensive play in the paint kept the road team ahead.

Leicester’s front court defence was forcing Newcastle to take several ill-advised deep threes, and the lead stretched back out to 11 following a Mackenzie fast break layup and physical work on the offensive boards by Idowu.

The lead continued to advance after ice cold back-to-back threes from Idowu and Mackenzie, the latter hitting his 20th point of the night.

The quarter ended with the Riders in control but needing to keep their foot on the gas with the six-man Eagles rotation looking leggy.

Now, it was only ten minutes between the teams and a place in the semi-finals.

Yet again, the Riders shot into the quarter with a three, Lall pulling up from the top of the arc and stringing home a beautiful bucket.

Green ran the floor to dunk home a statement of defiance and to give the bumper home crowd something to shout about, but with the Riders slowing things down and sitting on a 19-point lead, the result appeared decided.

The game then started to reflect the spice seen in previous meetings between the two teams this season, and a period of heavy fouling resulted in Johnson having to take a seat.

The Riders’ rode their composure to the final whistle, capping off an excellent League Trophy group stage with a terrific performance on the road.

It remains unclear who the Riders will face in Birmingham, as the fate of Group A remains undecided.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Plymouth City Patriots on Febuary 9!

Trophy Preview: Riders at Eagles

The Riders will take the long, straight trip up the M1 this Friday as they take on the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles in a win-or-go-home clash in Group B of the British Basketball League Trophy.

With two wins in the bank, Rob Paternostro’s squad know that victory in the Vertu Motors Arena sends them through to the final four of the competition to face the winners of Group A.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle

Friday, January 19, 7:45pm

Welcome to ‘Knockout’ Basketball

Leicester’s young squad face possibly the most pressurised night of the season on Friday, with the unenviable prospect of bowing out of the League Trophy lurking behind a loss.

However, much of this squad have faced games of this magnitude before. Kimbal Mackenzie, Conner Washington, Mo Walker and Blake Bowman have all suited up for the Riders multiple times in playoff basketball and in the latter stages of cup competitions, and first-year Riders’ Teddy Allen and TJ Lall have both experienced the pressure of the CEBL playoffs.

A much-improved defence has propelled Leicester into their second-place spot in Group B, a point against per game average of less than 84 proof that the squad is gelling nicely in 2024.

The tighter defence has come both on the front court – led by Miryne Thomas and Walker – and on the perimeter, with Allen proving his worth without the ball alongside his skills with it.

Those three have shown quick hands all through January, leading the Riders with over two steals per 40 minutes.

Double-digit home victories over the Bristol Flyers and Manchester Giants – where Leicester put up 104 – demonstrate that things are also clicking on the offensive side of the ball.

Teddy ‘Buckets’ has continued his devastating form, leading the league with 24 points per game, but it is the contributions of Lall and Samuel Idowu from the bench that have kept the Riders ahead in those games.

The second-unit pair are knocking down nearly 24 points a night between them, punctuated by Lall’s 19 points against Manchester and Idowu’s pair of double-doubles versus Bristol and the London Lions.

With Newcastle’s well-publicised injury troubles potentially acting as a hamper, expect coach Paternostro to utilise the full reach of his squad on Friday night to go into a crucial fourth quarter with the fresher team.

Coming Through in the Clutch

Like the Riders, the Eagles have won two games in a tough League Trophy Group B, although one of the victories was far from comfortable.

Leicester’s 104-88 defeat of the Manchester Giants last Wednesday laid down the gauntlet to the Flyers and the Eagles. Losing in Bristol could have meant the end of Newcastle’s campaign.

The contest was as tight as predictions expected, both teams trading blow-for-blow over the 40 minutes with both winning two quarters each.

Decorated veteran Darius Defoe had the final say, finding himself free after a scramble to drop in a two-pointer with 19 seconds remaining in the game. Defoe’s clutch bucket was reward for the depleted Eagles, who could only send six senior players onto the court.

Both teams have had at least a week to rest ahead of Friday’s clash, but it appears that Marc Steutel’s squad will still be without Josh Ward-Hibbert, Will Neighbour, Devin Whitfield and Scott Spencer.

As a result, many of the remaining Eagles have clocked heavy minutes in January, reflected by the four players who average over 15 points per game. Jordan Johnson, Larry Austin Jr., Tajh Green and Rickey McGill have done well to keep the team in winning form, and prove why Newcastle are a tough opponent, despite the injuries.

The battles between the Riders and Eagles have carried an added spice this season, with Leicester leading the series 2-1. Due to the high stakes – and the fact that new Rider Duke Shelton is returning to his former club – the Vertu Motors Arena will be bouncing come Friday night.

Newcastle will be hoping to shine under the bright lights.

Key Matchup

As intriguing as it is to see Shelton returning to his former club, the juiciest matchup in this game has got to be the battle of the scorers – Jordan Johnson and Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen.

Floor general Johnson has shown true leadership qualities in recent weeks for the Eagles. The former Caledonia Gladiators point guard is in top form, averaging 20 points per game in Group B.

Often required to be Newcastle’s primary scoring option, the 27-year-old can do it all, whether it’s draining shots from beyond the arc (42% from three) or driving into the lane before finessing home a tricky layup.

Johnson has played in the NBA G-League and across Europe (Netherlands, Kosovo and Germany), and his experience will tell during Friday’s biggest moments. 

Aiming to go bucket-for-bucket with Johnson will be the Riders’ mid-season magician, Teddy ‘Buckets’ Allen.

The CEBL MVP has only suited up for Leicester seven times but has already made a sizeable impression with his scoring ability and fearlessness when taking big shots.

Allen began his time with the Riders with a 32-point exhibition of three-point shooting. His numbers from downtown have calmed somewhat during the League Trophy, but the 6’6” winger has shown versatility by sauntering into the post to drop a layup or earn a trip to the free throw line.

It is the charity stripe where the former Winnipeg Bear has really shone, hitting 22 free throws (the most in the league) at a clip of over 90%.

The battle between these two premium scorers is sure to be an exhilarating one. One thing is for sure – even if the game is low-scoring, Johnson and Allen are sure to get theirs.

Want to see the Riders in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Plymouth City Patriots on Febuary 9!

Riders vs Eagles: The season series so far

The Riders face off in a win-or-go-home matchup against the Newcastle Eagles on Friday, the victor progressing to the Final Four in the British Basketball League Trophy. 

The sides have shared centre stage in some of the biggest battles in British basketball history over the last decade and once again meet with the stakes at their highest.

READ MORE: Riders vs Eagles: The History

Every Riders-Eagles fixture has been a battle so far this year, the Riders winning the season series so far 2-1. 

Here’s how the teams have matched up…

Game 1- Newcastle Eagles 85-92 Leicester Riders 

The teams first went face-to-face this season in the North East, and the Riders game out winners in the clutch. 

It was a one-score game with 1:25 remaining, after Malcolm Delpeche got to the hoop and laid in a finish. 

From there, it was a Riders onslaught on the free throw line, kicked off by Jaren Holmes’ and-one in transition. Kimbal Mackenzie finished it off from the stripe, making both attempts to seal a hard-earned win. 

Miryne Thomas impressed throughout with his interior presence, going off for 17 points and 7 rebounds in a Player of the Game performance. He was backed by Mackenzie’s 16, as the captain went 8-10 from the free throw line. 

Game 2- Newcastle Eagles 95-90 Leicester Riders

The Eagles had a chance to get back later that month and won in a war. Heated exchanges lasted throughout, seeing Newcastle’s star forward Tajh Green ejected from the game, but a 31-point explosion from Rickey McGill saw them win in a game that was contested wire-to-wire once again. 

McGill went 6-10 from three, the Riders with no answer to his hot hand. 

It was a one-possession game within the final two minutes after Miryne Thomas threw down a slam to cut the game to three. But this time it was Newcastle who finished strong, McGill scoring six down the stretch to win it for the hosts. 

Thomas impressed again, putting up 22 point and 10 rebound double-double. But ultimately, Leicester were outgunned from deep, the Eagles shooting 54% from behind the arc and tying the season series at 1-1. 

Game 3- Leicester Riders 111-88 Newcastle Eagles

Back in their own building, the Riders made a statement with a commanding win at the Morningside Arena. 

Jaren Holmes went off for 28 points and 5 rebounds, going 4-5 from three in the win. The Riders were down 10 in the first quarter, but a dominant third saw them turn a close game at the half to a 20 point lead.

Vote for Jaren for the 2024 British Basketball League All-Star game!

Holmes scored 13 on the run, and the Riders won the period 36-19 to burst out to a dominant lead. 

Mackenzie put up another 16 in the game, matching up well against the Newcastle backcourt to go 5-8 from the field. It was Leicester’s turn to shoot the light out, led by Holmes, going 57% from three-point range. 

Game 4- Win or go home

We’re back in Newcastle for our fourth meeting, in the most significant meeting between the sides so far this season. 

Should the Riders secure their second win in Newcastle, they’ll have booked their place against the winner of Group A in the Utilita Arena, Birmingham. 

The Riders’ roster has been revamped since the last meeting, with new signings Teddy Allen and Duke Shelton looking to face the Eagles for the first time. 

Watch the clash live on Friday, on the British Basketball League’s YouTube channel! 

Want to see the Riders in action?

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“It’s definitely a rivalry”- Duke Shelton on facing his former team, the Newcastle Eagles

Duke Shelton, in his second outing in Riders red, is set to walk into his old building in a win-or-go-home game against his former club.

The American forward suited up for the Newcastle Eagles between 2021 and 2022, and is well accustomed to the historic rivalry these teams hold. Shelton knows all too well the environment that is waiting for the Riders in the North East. 

“It’s a highly anticipated game, and there’s been a bit of heat between the teams in the last couple of games,” said Shelton. “Everybody is going to be up for it, and we know it’s going to be rowdy in there.

“We’re two of the most winning teams in the country. It’s definitely a rivalry, and you feel that when you play in these games. There’s definitely more energy, focus, and will to win when these teams play.”

The American, born in Florida, signed last week, and impressed in limited minutes on his debut in the Riders’ 104-88 win. He appreciated the chance to take to the court and impact the game where he could. 

“I felt comfortable, and really at home. I didn’t play a whole lot because I had just arrived the day before, but overall, I think I gave good effort and energy, and it was a good team win.

“I’m trying to bring energy, rebounding, communication and running to the team, and I think I did that during my time out there.”

Having been with the team for just over a week, Shelton can already see the makings of a team ready to make a run in the Trophy. 

“We have all the potential in the world. We are a pretty balanced team in all positions, and we have good team chemistry, so we just need to keep rolling. The Giants game was a good win, so we need to pick up where we left off.”

The Eagles, too, are coming into this one after a confidence-building win. They went into Bristol to play the Flyers, and got it done in the clutch to set up this knockout-style matchup against the Riders.

It was Shelton’s former teammate Darius Defoe who hit the go-ahead bucket from the elbow with seconds on the clock, and he thinks the veteran forward will have a say in the proceedings on Friday. 

“Darius is huge for them. You saw that last time out in the clutch- that was his signature shot. 

“He’s got a lot of experience, so everything he does is second nature. It’s huge to have a guy on the floor with you like that, especially on the defensive end. He can get guys in their spots and communicate- he’s the quarterback. He’ll play a huge role in the game.”

But despite the presence of the most decorated player in league history lining up against the Riders, they enter the game with confidence, having already gone into Newcastle and coming away with a win earlier in the year. 

“We match up pretty well against them, so we’ve got to come out and play team basketball. The atmosphere is going to be great, we know that, so we have to stick together and not get sidetracked by anything that’s not basketball. We can’t focus on anything that’s outside of sidelines.”

To fight for silverware so soon after signing is an exciting prospect for Shelton. With his new team, he’s ready to go to battle and help bring the Trophy to the East Midlands. 

“It would mean everything to win the Trophy. It’s what basketball is all about, and what every player is dreaming of. To have the opportunity, and be a part of a team that has to potential to win it is a great feeling, and we’d love to bring that to reality for the fans.”

Want to see Shelton in action?

Get tickets to our next home game against Plymouth City Patriots on Febuary 9!

Riders react to win against the Eagles

The Riders improved to 6-4 after a 111-88 win against the Newcastle Eagles. Here’s how the Riders reacted to the blowout win…

Jaren Holmes

Rookie guard Jaren Holmes led the game with his best performance of the season, putting up 28 points, five rebounds and four assists. 

He explained his feelings after the game. 

“It feels amazing. I’m very thankful to be a Rider, and it was a great team victory. I couldn’t have scored that many points without the team. We were moving the ball really well tonight.

“Everything we work on in practice is coming on the court. The guards did a great job of driving and kicking, and I was ready to knock down the shots. I’m thankful my teammates trust me to make shots. I put myself in a position to make plays, and I was able to make them today.”

The game was in the balance at the half, before a monster third quarter saw the Riders blow the game wide open. The message at halftime was to trust in the team’s ability.

“We were told to stay the course and trust our brand of basketball. We didn’t get into all the extra stuff and just played basketball. I know a lot has been made of our rivalry with Newcastle, but that’s not how we try and play basketball, and I’m thankful we showed that.

“Coach Rob put us in a position to be successful today, and we followed the gameplan to a tee.”

Rob Paternostro 

Following the Riders’ impressive victory, Head Coach Rob Paternostro was proud of the way the team responded from falling down double digits in the opening quarter. 

“After the first quarter, we played a solid game. The points off of turnovers were the problem early, so once we got control of that and we were able to get our defence set up, we improved as the game went on.”

The Riders’ bench outscored the Eagles 51-15, their depth proving the difference in the tie. 

“Our depth was important again today. We’re playing 10 players throughout the game, which allows our defensive pressure to pick up as the game goes on. Tonight, we wore them down by the end, and that’s one of our biggest strengths.”

Reacting to Holmes’ career night, Paternostro praised the work ethic of the Iowa State graduate. 

“He’s a big-time player. He’s the first in every day and the last one out. He’s a great competitor, and he had some great looks from all over today.

“What I liked is the variation in his play. It was the three-ball and the floaters in close that saw him get points on the board. It was a really versatile game from him today.”

Next up for the Riders is the undefeated London Lions. Paternotro stated the importance of preparation going into that game for the Leicester roster brimming with potential. 

“We’re going to have a good week of practice and try and figure them out. No one has yet! They’re a great team that I’ve enjoyed watching this year, so we have a lot of work to do.

“One of the messages this week when we were watching film, was that there’s a long way up for this team. I feel good about that, and it’s exciting for the staff for the rest of the season.”

Blake Bowman

After putting up eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of action, athletic wing Blake Bowman reacted to the win. 

“It feels great. We had a lot of energy from the crowd, and I’m super happy with the win.”

“It came from everyone today. To get 111 points, you need contributions from everywhere. Jaren played really well: 28 points is a great performance from him.”

Bowman led the team with 15 points in the Riders’ previous game, the Derby native finding form early in the season. He credits his play to the extended minutes he is beginning to find in the rotation. 

“It’s great getting more opportunities. Getting more touches has made me feel more comfortable, and I’m trying to contribute the best I can.”

Like his coach, Bowman realises the importance of the upcoming week ahead of facing the Lions. 

“It’s super important. They’re the team to beat right now, and we’re going to be locked in. We’ve got to come ready, and I’m sure we’ll do exactly that.”

Want to see the Riders take on the Lions? Get tickets here!

Report: Riders dominate against Newcastle

The Riders improved to 6-4 in the British Basketball League Championship after a convincing 111-88 victory over the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles on Saturday.

A 36-point third quarter from Rob Paternostro’s team rattled the Eagles in the second half, and the loss drops Marc Steutel’s squad to 3-7 on the season.

On a night where several Riders caught the eye, energetic shooting guard Jaren Holmes had potentially his best game yet, dropping 25 points on 84% shooting, adding four assists and five boards for good measure.

Holmes lit up the pine all game, his impact displayed with a plus 22 score differential when he was on court.

A high-quality first half from Xavier Pinson gave the Riders a boost early, continued by pure dominance from the second unit, who scored 51 points from the bench.

Eagles’ point guard Jordan Johnson bagged his usual 25 points, and enigmatic forward Tajh Green made a 13-point, 14-rebound double-double, but a spectacular second-half of offense from the Riders put the game beyond doubt.

After a pre-game build up heavy with anticipation, both teams came out looking determined to gain a useful lead early. The half that followed, didn’t disappoint.

Three-pointers dominated the first few minutes of play, the dynamic duo of Pinson and Holmes hitting back-to-back triples to answer five early points from the Eagles.

Newcastle crept out to an eight-point lead thanks to tenacious defence and 11 points from Rickey McGill, but a couple of beautiful buckets from Pinson and tough play from the Riders’ bench kept the lead narrow.

One move in the paint from the Riders’ starting point guard saw him scythe through multiple players before readjusting mid-shot to draw the foul and hit the ‘and one’ play.

Skilled big man Samuel Idowu made his presence known from the bench, slamming home a dunk, dismissing a McGill layup with authority and stroking from deep all within a couple of minutes.

With the Idowu three, Riders went into the second quarter trailing by just a single bucket.

The second quarter began, and the pace of the game took a step up. 

Five quick points from talented point guard Jordan Johnson were answered by a pair of threes from Riders’ veterans, Mo Walker and Connor Washington.

Leicester’s much discussed depth was showing its value once again, the Riders’ bench outscoring the Eagles 25-6 in the first half.

Johnson was cooking for Newcastle – hitting 14 first-half points – but he was matched by the tandem of Pinson and Kimbal Mackenzie, who dropped 14 and eight points respectively.

A pair of corner threes from the Riders’ captain sparked the home side as the half rushed to a close, and when Pinson hit his free throws following more aggressive play in the paint, Leicester took their first lead of the game.

The Riders were now forcing their visitors into poorly taken shots, and despite Green working his way to his double-double, Leicester went into the locker rooms in the lead, 53-50.

The first 20 minutes was a virtuoso display of deep ball shooting, both teams draining over 50% of their threes – the Riders at an eye-watering 66%.

If fans thought the pace would slow in the second half, they were badly mistaken.

Two deep threes from Green and wing player Devin Whitfield were quickly answered by the Riders – buckets from Braelen Bridges, Caleb Asberry and four fast break points by Holmes giving Paternostro’s squad a steadily growing lead.

Leicester were now running hot, playing wonderful transition basketball combining effective defence with ruthlessness on offense.

Even Eagles’ talisman Johnson was struggling to hit shots, and when scores from Pinson and Miryne Thomas dropped, the visitors were staring at a 15-point deficit.

Leicester were also riding the heat of Holmes’ hand, the two-guard boasting 17 points after hitting every one of his shots from the floor.

A lengthy break following a facial injury to Thomas slowed Riders’ momentum, but Holmes quelled any thoughts of a quick Newcastle comeback with another triple.

The Eagles were still dangerous though, big-bodied forward Malcolm Delpeche wowing both sets of supporters with a thunderous dunk off an alley-oop. 

With Newcastle’s shooters hitting a cold snap and the Riders’ second unit continuing to dominate the floor, Leicester entered the final stanza holding a comfortable 20-point lead.

Leicester’s exceptional play continued into the fourth, a cool-headed Washington draining a step back three to build the lead further. 

The Eagles could not handle the Riders’ defensive intensity, and with Holmes looking impossible to defend, the result looked certain with six minutes still to go.

The contest meandered to a close in jubilant fashion for the Riders’ faithful as their team saw out the well-earned win.

Late ejections for Green and Darius Defoe for persistent fouling summed things up for the visitors, who will be hoping for better as they look to move up the BBL championship table.

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Championship Preview: Riders vs Eagles

The Riders will begin November’s slate of games this Saturday, welcoming the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles to the Morningside Arena for the first time this season.

Despite the young season, the two squads have already built a competitive rivalry, taking one game apiece in October after 80 minutes of back-and-forth play.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders vs Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Morningside Arena, Leicester

Saturday, November 4, 7:30pm

Get tickets here!

Happy to be Home

The Riders will be glad to play in front of the home supporters this weekend after coming agonisingly close to claiming a great victory in Scotland.

Rob Paternostro’s young team have showed they can win on the road – beating this weekend’s opponents and dominating the 7-3 Bristol Flyers – but Clifton Moore Jr’s bucket with two seconds left gave the victory to the Caledonia Gladiators last Sunday.

Leicester fell to an 84-83 defeat, but their 5-4 record doesn’t do justice to how good this team is and how far they can go.

The Riders have one of the deepest squads in the British Basketball League which is reflected in the quality of offense they produce.

Leicester sit second in the league at 88.4 points per game, but no Riders feature among the Top 10 points scorers.

Superb sharing of the ball and a punchy bench means that Riders’ top scorer – Jaren Holmes at 12.9 PPG – is joined by three teammates scoring over 11.3 PPG. Four players averaging over 11.3 PPG is the most of any team in the BBL.

Leicester’s October 6 victory over Newcastle in the Vertu Motors Arena saw them nearly double their opponents’ bench points total.

For the Riders to take a 2-1 series lead over the Eagles, second unit standouts like veterans Kimbal Mackenzie and Connor Washington must keep up their current sparkling form.

Victory in Europe

Much like the 92-85 loss on October 6, the Eagles will face the Riders after a midweek contest against tough European competition.

Wednesday night saw Marc Steutel’s team hit the pine against multiple Czech champions, Basket Brno, beating them 87-81 after an impressive opening quarter.

The consistent danger that is Jordan Johnson finished as the game’s MVP, hitting 25 points and dishing eight assists in a typically action-packed display.

The Eagles built a lead through fast break points and tenacity on the offensive glass, something the Riders will need to stand up to this weekend.

Newcastle excel at offensive rebounding, leading to an offense that thrives off extra possessions, giving scorers like Johnson and the mercurial Rickey McGill scope to get hot.

Led by Johnson, they also shoot well from the free throw line, hitting 76% of their foul shots which is second in the BBL.

So far this season, the Riders have done a great job of matching the Eagles in these areas – they will need more of the same come Saturday, in what is sure to be an exciting spectacle.

Key Matchup

Following the events of the highly charged contest between these two a couple weeks back, it’s hard to look past the battle of power forwards, Miryne Thomas and Tajh Green.

Two big men with scoring ability and a competitive edge, the clash between Thomas and Green is sure to get the Riders’ faithful nudging towards the edge of their seats.

The Eagles’ 6’8” forward has been a star of the British Basketball League since he entered the league with the Manchester Giants last season.

While his minutes and scoring numbers are slightly down on last season, the South Carolina native still poses a significant threat, notably dropping 23 points on the undefeated London Lions, including three deep balls. 

Green has always been aggressive in the paint, but his range and accuracy has improved in Newcastle. The physical forward is hitting at a higher percentage from deep this season, so the Riders’ defence must take notice when Green is circling beyond the arc.

Rookie forward Thomas can also string it from downtown, but it’s the speed and agility he shows underneath the basket that truly gets pulses racing.

Standing at 6’8”, the Cleveland-born baller utilises his length and movement skills to manipulate defences into giving him space, often finishing off a leading pass with a spectacular dunk.

Many of his 12.2 PPG come after a show of elite athleticism – a sight Riders fans are getting used to seeing each week.

The past two weeks have seen the youngster solidify his play with excellent rebounding, pushing him into the BBL Top 10 and earning him a spot on the league’s Team-of-the-Week twice.

The Riders won’t meet the Eagles again until 2024. Paternostro’s men will want a victory to savour over the winter period. That competitive fight won’t present itself in any players more than it will in the frontcourt between Thomas and Green.

Report: Riders fall to Eagles

A Friday night filled with high drama in the British Basketball League Championship saw the Riders fall 95-90 to the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

In a fiercely contested game, accurate shooting beyond the arc from the home team made the difference in the Vertu Motos Arena, helping them secure their first win in nearly a month.

The Riders drop to 4-3 on the season but can take heart from a spirited performance on the road.

High-flying forward Miryne Thomas had his best performance in a Riders uniform, dropping 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to earn his first BBL double-double.

The point guard tandem of Xavier Pinson and Kimbal Mackenzie also made a significant impression on the stat sheet, combining for 35 points and seven assists.

Pinson, who has been deadly accurate from deep this season, went five-for-seven from deep and remains near the top of the league for three-point percentage.

The Eagles’ best showing came from combo-guard Rickey McGill, who despite only hitting one three-pointer coming into the game, sunk six shots from downtown.

McGill totalled 31 points on the night and earned ‘Player of the Game’ honours.

In a sight that is becoming pleasingly familiar this season, scoring began with Thomas, who hit from deep after fine ball movement by the Riders.

The Eagles answered back quickly with an emphatic flush from Malcolm Delpeche, but a well-timed block by Braelen Bridges on the next defensive set sparked a 12-2 Riders run dominated by the three ball.

A second bucket from range from Thomas and back-to-back triples by Pinson saw the visitors hit four threes in four minutes, and with Jordan Johnson in foul trouble, the Riders looked comfortable.

Paternostro’s young squad hit a cold snap midway through the half however, allowing the Eagles to pull themselves back into the game.

After a couple of unexpected delays, due to a referee suffering an injury and Will Neighbour being ejected for collecting technical and unsportsmanlike fouls, the home side took their first lead on the back of a Tajh Green three.

A hotly contested game boiled over to end the first half, resulting in technical and unsportsmanlike fouls for Caleb Asberry and Thomas respectively, plus a second ejection for the Eagles, who had Green leave the court after a hard foul on Asberry.

Once the arena was calmed and play resumed, strong play on the inside from Bridges and a pair of Riders’ threes saw them retake the lead, 43-42 the halftime score.

Coming out of the break strong, Newcastle pulled out to a five-point lead, but an unbelievable hustle play from Jaren Holmes – stopping a fast break with a steal – galvanised the Riders and they closed the gap with a pair of three-pointers.

Nice layups from Holmes and Sam Idowu kept the Eagles defence honest, but a three-point efficiency of 55%, including five deep balls by McGill, propelled them to a seven-point lead heading into the closing stanza.

A heavy tension filled the arena heading into the fourth, ramped up by five quick points by the Riders.

Captain Mackenzie was putting the team on his back, cleverly drawing a pair of offensive fouls and taking advantage with a corner three.

Back fired the Eagles, an ‘and one’ play by Johnson taking him over 20 points, and once McGill hit yet another three, Newcastle were up by eight with four minutes left.

Holmes’ first three of the night, a beautiful right-hand layup from Thomas and a nasty step back three by Pinson showed the Riders’ resilience, but despite taking it down to the final shot, Newcastle held on for victory.

The Riders return to action on Thursday, hosting the Surrey Scorchers.

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Championship Preview: Riders at Eagles

Round six of the British Basketball League Championship sees the Riders travel north to Newcastle for the second time this season.

After splitting last weekend’s back-to-back games – the latter of which a loss to the Manchester Giants – Rob Paternostro’s squad will want to get back to winning ways and improve on their 4-2 record.

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle

Friday, October 20, 7:30pm

Watch Live!

A Weekend of Attrition

The Riders currently sit second in the BBL Championship table with eight points after splitting a weekend double-header.

Coach Paternostro did a good job of managing his players’ workload in Friday’s 91-74 win over the Surrey Scorchers, but an excellent second half by the Giants saw them best the Riders with a score of 94-80.

Fatigue may well have been a factor down the stretch in Manchester, as Leicester scored a season-low 80 points, but strong outings from Xavier Pinson, Caleb Asberry and TJ Lall were further proof that this young squad is continuing to get better.

Lall, who is proving to be a key member of the Riders’ second unit, came of the bench to drop 11 points, snag nine rebounds and draw five fouls.

The 6’7” guard’s versatility has been on full display early as he averages 8.3 points per game, 38.5% from deep range and leads the team in rebounds per game with 5.3.

The Eagles are proficient on the offensive glass, so Lall’s hustle to grab missed shots will be crucial.

As well as matching Newcastle on the boards, the Riders will need to return to their usual high standard of free throw shooting.

The Riders and the Eagles are the two best teams in the BBL at getting to the foul line, averaging 40.9 and 42.8 free throws per game respectively.

The team that can convert those chances at the foul line most efficiently could end up taking home the victory.

Getting Back to Winning Ways

Since an 81-74 victory in Bristol on September 22, the Eagles haven’t won a game, falling into a run of four straight losses.

One of those defeats came at the hands of the Riders, who bested the hometown team 92-85 in a pulsating game.

Monday’s 109-104 overtime loss to the unbeaten London Lions spells a change, though, so the Riders should expect a similarly competitive contest.

Former Giants forward Tajh Green flashed the most against the Lions, hitting all of his three shots from downtown on his way to an impactful 23-point haul.

The 6’8” big man, who has averaged a near double-double over his BBL tenure, is the Eagles’ front-court focal point with the strength to bang inside and the speed to run the floor on fast breaks.

Green, who dropped 17 points last time the two teams met, will need to repeat those numbers for an Eagles team that has struggled on offense, averaging just under 80 PPG.

That, added to a 40.7 FG%, means that Newcastle need to focus heavily on scoring efficiency if they are to best a Riders team that excels in this area.

A final wrinkle to this contest comes as the Eagles’ staff will have to manage their players’ minutes.

Newcastle travel to Bristol to face a 4-3 Flyers team on Saturday night. Back-to-back games could see star players like Jordan Johnson taking to the floor less often than usual.

Key Matchup

Both the Riders and the Eagles get to the foul line better than any other team in the BBL. However, both squads are also very good at foul-free basketball.

The key matchup for this game could be between two guards who are aggressive when hitting the lane and often force defenders into personal fouls: Larry Austin Jr. and Jaren Holmes.

Illinois native Austin Jr is a wily veteran guard, currently in his third season in the BBL, the first two spent with the Cheshire Phoenix.

Standing at 6’2”. Austin Jr. is quick and strong, known for his perimeter defence and eye for a rebound. 

He is also excellent at finding his way to the foul line. The former Central Michigan player is currently taking 5.2 free throws per game, just behind Johnson who is at 7.3, second in the British Basketball League.

Austin Jr is a good ‘alternative threat’ in the Eagles’ backcourt, a role being played perfectly by the Riders’ Jaren Holmes.

Holmes, who is averaging 13.5 points, is slightly taller than his opposite number at 6’4” and can use his size to also compete with forwards on the wing.

The Iowa State star uses his speed and will to get to the rim to great effect, and this ‘attack first’ mentality sees him shooting 4.5 free throws.

Holmes gets to the line less frequently than Austin Jr, but his 85% conversion rate, compared to his opponent’s 65%, could give the Riders’ guard the edge.

Played for both- Corey Johnson

Former Riders sharpshooter Corey Johnson once donned Eagles colours, after playing an integral part in a Riders championship win.

The Canadian wing spent two seasons in the East Midlands, putting up 10.9 points per game on 38% three-point shooting in the 2020/21 season. 

Johnson helped the Riders to the League title with a 24-6 record, playing in all 30 games that season. 

Johnson signed with Newcastle the next season, adding 14 points per game to the reigning Playoff champions. 

Johnson now suits up for the Derby Trailblazers in the NBL Division One, having played for the Manchester Giants last season. 

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5 things we learned from Riders at Eagles

The Riders took a 92-85 win on the road to long-standing rivals, the Newcastle Eagles.

Here’s what we learned from the game…

Miryne magic

For the second straight game, Miryne Thomas led the team with 17 points. His ability to score on all three levels, run in transition and battle around the hoop presents a constant threat to opposing defences. 

In the seven-point win, Thomas finished the game with a +/- of 16 points, showcasing his impact on winning. He came up with monster slams throughout the game to inject energy into the team, while flying around the court on defence and in transition. 

“I’m living my dream. I’ve been working to get here for over 10 years, and now I’m soaking it in,” said Thomas. 

“I’ve been telling the team that I’m here to run and get tired. If I have zero points and rebounds and we come out with a win, I’m as happy as I would be if I had 100 points.”

Clutch gene 

With the game tied with 3:15 remaining, the Riders demonstrated their ability to battle it out in the clutch. They won the remainder of the game 14-7, executing on both ends with the game on the line. 

Jaren Holmes impressed late, scoring six points in the final three minutes, including a coast-to-coast and-one play with 45 seconds on the clock. He hit a go-ahead three with the score at 78-78 to snatch momentum when it mattered. 

“I trust my work. I make those shots every day in practice, from the layups to the threes, so I know I can be myself,” said Holmes.

“Hopefully, this win can put us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’re trying to build momentum and keep our energy and spirits high. We’re becoming a more cohesive group. Every day we learn more about each other, and each other’s games.”

Head Coach Rob Paternostro was proud of how the team saw the game out late.

“I was a little disappointed because I thought we could have been up a little more at the half.”

I knew we’d have to hang on in the second half, and we did a really good job in the last five minutes to get the job done.”

Different ways to win

The Riders’ victory against the Bristol Flyers last week came in large part thanks to their three-point shooting, going 46.2% from range. 

They weren’t on the same red-hot form in this one but found another way to get it done. Leicester’s one-two punch of Thomas and Bridges wreaked havoc inside. They found success in the pick and roll with the Riders’ playmakers and in the post. 

Newcastle had no answer. Thomas’s 17 was accompanied by Bridges 15 points, the latter going 6-6 from the field. Bridges is 18-21 from the floor on the season, making a name as one of British Basketball’s most efficient scorers. 

Strength in depth

The Riders, once again, demonstrated the talent they have throughout their deep roster. Their bench outscored the Eagles 33-17, proving the difference between the sides. 

They were led by Kimbal Mackenzie, who put up 16 points and four assists as the sixth man. He played out the final stages of the game, and his high defensive IQ proved pivotal in seeing out the game. 

Another bench player stepping up in the closing minutes was Sam Idowu, whose clutch three made it 84-79 with just over a minute remaining. Idowu also proved his value on the defensive end with a monster block on Larry Austin Jr late. 

Idowu came off the bench to great effect throughout. Behind the elite combination of Miryne Thomas and Braelen Bridges, the Riders did not miss a step when Idowu swapped them out, playing with the same level of physicality on both ends. 

Giving minutes to 11 players, the Riders flexed the talent they have in their squad. 

Riders rolling on Offence 

In the early stages of the season, the Riders’ offence is ranked as one of the British Basketball League’s best. Their 89.5 points per game is good for second in the League, as is their 50.2% field goal percentage and 38.6% three-point percentage. 

Scoring 92 points for the second straight game, the Riders’ offensive firepower throughout their roster proved too much for the Eagles. Leicester had nine points contributors on the night, and four players scored at least 15 points. 

With multiple players able to be the difference on any given night, the Riders are in contention to put up big scoring numbers every time they take the floor. 

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Riders react to win in Newcastle

The Riders improved to 3-1, following a 92-85 win on the road against the Newcastle Eagles. Here’s what the Riders had to say after the hard-fought victory…

Miryne Thomas

For the second straight game, Miryne Thomas led the scoring load with 17 points, accompanied with six rebounds and a block in an energetic performance in the paint. 

Thomas explained that his hunger and desire stems from his gratefulness for the opportunity professional basketball brings him.

“I’m living my dream. I’ve been working to get here for over 10 years, and now I’m soaking it in. 

“I’ve been telling the team I’m here to run and get tired. If I have zero points and rebounds and we come out with a win, I’m as happy as I would be if I had 100 points.”

On the opposing side of the court, the Eagles’ Jordan put on a show. The former Glasgow Rock scored a game-high 22 points, injecting momentum into his team as they attempted a comeback from ten points down. 

“Johnson is a tenacious player. Kudos to him and the Eagles for the battle they gave us.

“During our timeouts, we knew we were fine. We knew who he is and what he’s capable of, but we know who we are and what we’re capable of on defence, and we were able to see out the win.”

Rob Paternostro

Following the game, Head Coach Rob Paternostro was pleased with how the team battled in the clutch, fending off the Eagles, who got back into it late. 

I thought we were solid tonight,” said Paternostro. “I was a little disappointed at halftime. I thought we could have been up a little more, but I knew we’d have to hang on in the second half, and we did a really good job in the last five minutes to get the job done.”

Coach was happy with the buy-in on the defensive end. The Riders showed physicality and energy throughout, causing Newcastle difficulties in running their offence.  

“Defensively, we were really good in the halfcourt tonight. In transition, we could have done a better job, and we put them on the foul line a few too many times, but I liked how we played defence. The guys were committed to it, and these players are learning and improving every week.”

The new-look Riders showed maturity for a young roster comprised of six rookies. They fought hard wire to wire and executed in a composed manner late. 

“At times, we have five rookies out there, and games like this will be great for them. We’ve had really good weeks of practice, and what’s showing up on the practice floor is starting to show up in the games.

“Our depth is huge. Tonight, we played 11 guys because we had to make sure we were fresh. We’re still trying to figure out rotations, and we’re learning a lot about our team, but this was a big step for us.

“For us, it’s about getting better each week. This league is tough, so we’ve got to keep improving.”

Jaren Holmes

Coming off a 15 point game, including six points in the final six minutes, Jaren Holmes echoed his coach’s sentiment: “We want to pride ourselves on being one of the best-conditioned teams in the League, and with our depth, we’re able to play hard late.”

Holmes’ clutch play separated the sides late, hitting a three with a defender in his grill and completed an and-one play in transition. He credited his work on the practice floor for his ability when the pressure is high. 

“I trust my work. I make those shots every day in practice, from the layups to the threes, so I know I can be myself.”

‘Hopefully, this win can put us in good stead for the rest of the season. We’re trying to build momentum and keep our energy and spirits high. We’re becoming a more cohesive group. Every day we learn more about each other, and each other’s games.”

Holmes put the win down to a collective effort, with contributions from every Rider. 

“Braelen had a monster game in the post, which opened everything up for us. Miryne, Kimbal, and Xavier all had incredible games, which goes for everyone up and down the roster. It was a true group effort.” 

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Report: Riders beat Eagles in thriller

The Riders improved their record to 3-1 on the season following a pulsating 92-85 win over the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

In a game that entertained fans inside the Vertu Motos Arena from start to finish, Leicester went toe-to-toe with their Northern rivals, matching them on the boards and on the fast break.

Athletic forward Miryne Thomas took ‘Player of the Game’ honours, dropping 17 points in spectacular fashion with eye-catching dunks and clutch three-pointers.

Thomas was ably supported by Braelen Bridges and Jaren Holmes, who put up 15 points each – Bridges hitting 100% from the field.

Kimbal Mackenzie, and frontcourt rock Samuel Idowu brought intensity from the bench, Riders’ captain scoring 16 crucial points and Idowu proving to be a handful at both ends of the court.

The 6’8” big man made three blocks in the late stages of the game, helping to throw the Eagles off rhythm each time they looked like making a run.

Free-scoring guard Jordan Johnson was the top scorer for the home side, knocking down 22 points, aided by a strong 17 from high-flyer Tajh Green.

The game started in frenetic fashion, with the Riders finding success inside and on the fast break. Despite strong on-ball defence from the Eagles, Bridges and Thomas took charge, finding early success on their way to a combined 13 first-half points.

Midway through the first, Thomas sent the visiting supporters into raptures with a highlight reel dunk, fed by a bullet pass from Caleb Asberry.

The high-quality first quarter came to a close with the teams level on points, Mackenzie making it 21 apiece with a clutch buzzer-beater.

An excellent second quarter for the Riders started with a spectacular layup from the captain, capitalising on two offensive rebounds by Leicester’s frontcourt.

With Xavier Pinson injecting pace into the game and TJ Lall knocking down their first three of the night from the corner, the Riders pulled out a deserved five-point lead.

Green wowed the home fans with a huge putback dunk and the dangerous Johnson hit ten points for the Eagles, but Leicester’s squad depth was proving to be the difference.

20 points from the bench helped the visitors go into halftime with a 42-37 lead after an exciting first half.

Riders hit the ground running in the third, Thomas rising high for a seismic slam to extend the lead, before dropping beyond the arc and stroking a three from deep.

As expected in the pre-game build-up, the teams were going bucket-for-bucket.

Leicester’s aggressive play and crisp passing pushed them to the first double-digit lead of the night, and they headed into the final 15 minutes 59-49 to the good.

But the Eagles showed fight and stayed in touch, proving that they should be near the top of the standings come playoff time.

A fast-break three by Johnson put the home side into a 65-64 lead, which they took into the fourth quarter.

The final ten began in the same vein as every other quarter – with a big play from Thomas, who drained a corner three.

With the game finely poised at 69 each, Caleb Asberry made the defensive play of the season so far, chasing down an Eagles fast break before rising highest to make a block against the backboard.

This energised the Riders to a late four-point lead, but the Eagles kept pegging them back.

A dagger of a three from Holmes gave Leicester an 81-78 lead, maintained by a dominant block from defensive wall, Idowu.

The gap rose to six following an Idowu bucket from beyond the arc and a strong ‘and one’ play by Holmes.

Intelligent play from the experienced Mackenzie carried the Riders in the final minute, and they travel South with a hard earned early-season victory.

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Preview: Riders at Eagles

Round four of the British Basketball League Championship sees the Riders heading north for the first time this season to face long-standing rivals the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles.

Following last week’s comprehensive win against the Flyers in Bristol, the Riders hope to go two-for-two on the road and keep pace with the first-place London Lions.

READ MORE: Riders vs Eagles: The history

Fixture Information

Leicester Riders @ Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles

Vertu Motors Arena, Newcastle

Friday, October 6, 7:45 pm

Watch live!

Off to a Flyer

Coach Rob Paternostro will want his Riders squad to emulate the hot start they got against Bristol, which resulted in an unassailable 27-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Led by versatile forward Miryne Thomas, Leicester blitzed the Flyers with powerful play in the paint and supreme accuracy from beyond the arc.

The Riders dropped 46% from deep, which proved to be the difference between the teams.

Energetic point guard Xavier Pinson had his best game so far as a Rider, with a stat line of 17 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for a near triple-double.

Pinson’s comfort running the offence appears to be growing with game time, which has helped the Riders’ offensive output increase each week.

“We got better in practice this week,” said Pinson post-game. “Everything we did translated over to the game.

“I was hurt when I first arrived, but now I’m healthy I’m getting more comfortable and assured in what I’m doing.”

Leicester’s ability to score freely will be of paramount importance against the Eagles, who used the off-season to acquire some dangerous pieces of their own.

Eagles Looking to Soar

After a disappointing 2022/23 season, the Eagles played aggressively in the free agent market, securing the services of BBL stars Larry Austin Jr and Tajh Green.

Early signs suggest that the off-season deals are paying dividends – Newcastle sit level on points with the Riders after a 2-1 start.

But they enter this game off the back of a short turnaround. The Eagles fought wire to wire in the ENBL on Wednesday evening, playing BC Šiauliai in Lithuania.

They fell 94-92 to a buzzer-beating game-winner, and take on the Riders two days later.

A large part of the Eagles’ game centres around physicality near the rim, whether that be in scoring or snagging rebounds.

Newcastle tops the league in made free throws per game with 24.7 and boards per game with 39.

It is imperative that the Riders box out prolific rebounders, Austin Jr and Green, to prevent the upgraded Eagles’ backcourt from having extra chances at buckets.

Last week’s loss to the Cheshire Phoenix proved that if teams match the Eagles on the glass, they are beatable – especially if the Riders keep stroking it from deep.

Key Matchup

The on-court battle to watch this Friday may be between the two starting point guards – Newcastle’s Jordan Johnson and the aforementioned Xavier Pinson.

28-year-old Johnson has started the season in excellent form, dropping 19.3 points per game, including 23 total trips to the free throw line.

A seasoned professional who has previously competed in the British Basketball League for the Caledonia Gladiators, Johnson brings speed and precision to the Eagles’ backcourt and an understanding of when to drive to the hole or dish a pass to an open teammate.

Disrupting Johnson with active on-ball defence will be crucial, so look for Pinson to be keen to add to his 1.7 steals per game.

Leicester’s 6’3” point guard should match up to his more experienced opponent well, using his agility and ball skills to great effect.

Pinson has also been deadly from downtown, currently leading the league with a three-point percentage of 54.5.

Expect the battle for points to wage most vehemently in the backcourt.

Both players could wind up as the game winner in this contest.

Played for Both

Both the Riders and the Eagles have the honour of calling two-time League MVP, Andrew ‘Drew’ Sullivan, one of their own.

Sullivan earned a plethora of accolades, both nationally and domestically, over the course of his career, including a bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and becoming the first player to make 100 appearances for Great Britain.

The 6’8” power forward first suited up on British shores for the Eagles, helping them to a dominant 2006 season, including a 71-51 BBL Trophy victory over the Riders.

After a few seasons testing himself against European competition, Sullivan signed for the Riders and helped them complete a treble-winning season in 2013.

Over five seasons with the Riders, Sullivan averaged 12.5 points per game and seven rebounds per game.

The Londoner last played for the Riders in 2017, where he retired at the age of 36 as a legend of British Basketball.

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Riders vs Eagles- The history

The Riders head north on Friday to take on their historic rivals, the Newcastle Eagles. The sides have faced off in the biggest games in British Basketball over the last decade. Here, we catch you up with the history…

2011/12- The first Final meeting

The sides first met in a major final in the Rob Paternostro era in the 2012 BBL Playoff Final: the Riders’ first final since 2001. 

The Eagles, then serial winners of the competition having won four since the Riders’ last appearance, added a fifth to their trophy cabinet on this occasion. They won the game 71–62, led by MVP Charles Smith’s 21 points.

That season, the Eagles pulled off the domestic quadruple, their victory against the Riders capping off the achievement.

Leicester pushed the Eagles all the way in the League, falling just two points short to set up the rivalry between the organisations. 

2012/13- Riders on the board

The next season, the Riders took the silverware against the North Easterners, winning the treble by lifting the Championship, Cup and Playoff trophies.

They first met the Eagles in the 2013 BBL Cup final. Jay Cousinard’s MVP performance led Leicester to a 85–80 win, earning the first piece of silverware for Head Coach Rob Paternostro. 

The Riders went on to lift the League title with a 30-3 record, clearing the second-placed Eagles by ten points, before meeting them in the Playoff final to complete the treble. 

Leicester won the tie 68–57, again led by MVP Cousinard, to make it 2-1 in domestic finals between the sides. 

2013/14Trading trophies

Again, the teams fought for silverware at the earliest opportunity the next season in the BBL Cup final. The Riders had the edge, playing out a classic at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham. 

Cousinard’s late free throws put Leicester up three with seven seconds remaining, as the Riders fought back from 11 points down with four minutes to play, led by eight points from MVP Drew Sullivan. 

The Riders didn’t meet the Eagles in the remaining two finals, as Newcastle went on to top the Championship table and fell short in the Playoff final against the Worcester Wolves. 

2014/15- Eagles quadruple

The 2014/15 season saw the Riders and Eagles share a title fight wire to wire. The Eagles emerged victors, finishing with 62 points to the Riders 60, then going on to win the Playoff final against the London Lions. 

The Eagles again won the quadruple as they did in 2012, facing off against the Riders in yet another final. This time, it was the 2014 BBL Trophy final, which they won 96-90 led by MVP Smith once again. 

Smith’s season saw him named League MVP, as he put up 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the Eagles’ historic season. 

2015/16- Riders respond

The Riders responded next season, winning the League and Trophy double. It was Leicester’s turn to pip Newcastle to the Championship title, a 29-4 record seeing them edge out the second-placed Eagles 58 points to 56. 

Leicester beat their Eagles on their new homecourt at the Morningside Arena to lift the title.

The Riders went through the Eagles in the Trophy final, winning 85-77 led by MVP Sullivan against his former team. It was revenge for the Riders, who were beaten by the Eagles in the Cup final earlier in the year. 

The Eagles’ Rahmon Fletcher won the first of his two BBL MVP awards, and led the team in the Cup win to take home Final MVP. 

Leicester had a shot at the treble in the BBL Playoff Final, but fell a game short to the Sheffield Sharks. 

2016/17- Building on success

The 2016/17 season saw Leicester build on the previous year’s success, winning another domestic treble. 

Winning the League over Newcastle by eight points, and taking a dominant 84–63 victory against the Eagles in the Playoff Final saw them establish themselves as the BBL’s premier outfit, after they lifted their first silverware of the season with a 91-58 win against the Plymouth Raiders in the Trophy. 

The Playoffs marked the last time the sides have faced off in a domestic final. 

The Eagles weren’t left empty-handed, however, winning the BBL Cup with a 91–83 victory against the Glasgow Rocks. But the Riders finished the season the stronger of the sides, with Pierre Hampton leading the team to a playoff win with a Final MVP performance. 

2018/Present- Recent years

2018 saw the first season where Leicester and Newcastle didn’t meet in a final in seven years. It also marked the first season the Eagles failed to make a final in eight years. 

Meanwhile, the Riders secured another treble, winning the League by 10 points over the London Lions.

They faced the Lions in the Playoff final to win the treble, taking the victory comfortably 81-60, and beat the Sheffield Sharks to win the Trophy final 90-85. 

The Eagles finished third in the standings with a 21-11 record, not facing the Riders in any of the knockout competitions throughout the season. 

The most recent high-stakes game between the Riders and Eagles dates back to the 2021 Playoffs, where the Eagles beat the League champions over two legs in a behind-closed-doors semi-final. 

They went on to win the Playoffs that season, before the Riders responded with another treble the following season. 

With a revamped roster for both sides this season, it would come as no surprise for the teams to meet at the highest level once again. 

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Back-to-back Wins on the Weekend

Leicester Riders remain undefeated after securing two wins up north against Caledonia Pride (91-61) and Newcastle Eagles (66-39). 

In both games, Riders gained a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back. 

Against Pride, Riders made a statement with 54 points in the paint and early in the 4th had a 37 point lead, the largest in the game. 

Leicester came at all angles with five players in double-digit points with Hinriksdottir leading both teams with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Riders also finished the weekend with an assertive defensive display against the Eagles, holding the opponents to a 22 FG%.

Kate Oliver made her presence known with 22 points including four three’s and 6 rebounds. This was supported by another consistent performance from Hinriksdottir’s 16 points and 6 rebounds. 

Leicester Riders vs Caledonia Pride


Hinriksdottir 19, Winterburn 12, Lappenkuper 12, Januszewska 10, Robb 10, Clark 8, Oliver 8, Hikin 7, Morris 5.


Storie 17, Ranger 14, Velazquez 9, Tweedi 6, Beattie 5, Phillips 2, Harvey 2, Falen 2. 

Leicester Riders vs Newcastle Eagles


Oliver 22, Hinriksdottir 16, Lappenkuper 8, Winterburn 7, Robb 7, Clark 4, Januszewska 4.


Gorrell 14, Koop 12, Kvederaviciute 6, Thomley 5, Lowe 2.

Photo by Kieron Carr, Newcastle Eagles.

Riders win big on the road and qualify for the WBBL Cup semifinals

Leicester Riders Women are now 3-0 in the WBBL Cup after a huge fourth quarter push against the Newcastle Eagles. 

Both teams went back and fourth with Newcastle taking a two point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Newcastle’s, Alison Gorrell, made sure the game was competitive with her 19 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. However, a layup by Anna Lappenkuper started the Riders 36-9 run to secure the win and reach the WBBL Cup semifinals.

Kate Oliver was unstoppable in the matchup and led the scoring with 29 points on a notable 73% field goal percentage, alongside four 3-pointers. Holly Winterburn also had a dominant near triple-double with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. 

Head Coach Jesper Sundberg commented: “we are very happy about the win and finishing at the top of the group. Newcastle created lots of problems for us on defence. Offensively we made it a high possession game and we had more energy left going into the final quarter.”


Eagles: Gorrell 19, Mcvicar 16, Smith 14, Koop 12, Taylor 4, Bland 2, Oates 2, Chuckwu-Etu 2

Riders: Oliver 29, Holly 18, Hinriksdottir 16, Robb 15, Lappenkuper 10, Gaskin 6, Clark 2.

Riders take on the Cardiff Met Archers next in the WBBL Cup semifinals on the 5th December.

Photo credit: Newcastle Eagles