The Riders are set to face off against the London Lions in a final for the third time this season. Making three finals in a season is a franchise record for the club, but they hope the third time is the charm in this one to take some silverware back to Leicester.
Road to the final
After finishing third in the league standings with a 17-5 record, the Riders were faced with two opponents standing between them and the O2 Arena.
The first was the Essex Rebels, who played the Riders to an overtime classic. They entered the fourth down 10, but back-to-back threes from Fiona O’Dwyer kicked off an inspired comeback.
Ashley Arlen and Oliana Squires won it at the free-throw line at the end of overtime, progressing them to the semi-finals against the second-placed Caledonia Gladiators.
This one was more straightforward, as the Riders dominated a 19-point road win against their Scottish contemporaries.
Squires led the game with 25, but it was their defence which won them the day. Leicester held the Gladiators to 30% shooting from the floor, and outrebounded them 39 to 30 in the win.
These teams are well-versed in competing at the top level of domestic basketball. They have faced twice this season in finals, the Lions coming out victors on both occasions.
The first was a tough outing for the Riders. The Lions dominated the WBBL Cup final, winning 95-42 led by Final MVP Holly Winterburn’s 16 points and nine rebounds.
Squires’ attempt to inject rhythm into the Riders’ offence resulted in a game-high 23 points, but the game was never in doubt.
The WBBL Betty Codona Trophy final was a different matter. The Riders had the game within five points midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a finish at the rim by Hannah Robb.
Lions’ American forward Ty Battle responded with six straight to see the game out, but the Riders will take confidence from being in the game late, minutes away from winning the Trophy.
It took a monumental 33 points from Lions’ GB star Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan to win it. The Riders were led by 22 points and 14 rebounds from star forward Arlen.
Arlen enters this game on a high, having been named to the WBBL Team of the Year earlier in the week.
The American forward averaged 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds this season, shooting 42% from the field, and has continued to demonstrate her elite abilities in the postseason.
Arlen put up 18 points and 14 rebounds in the Riders’ overtime victory over the Essex Rebels in the quarter-final and 12 in the semi-final against the Caledonia Gladiators. The Riders’ will need a performance like the Trophy final from their frontcourt.
Facing up against Arlen and vying for her second final MVP of the season is Herbert-Harrington. “Kiki” started her post-college career in the WNBA, where she was drafted sixth overall in the 2020 draft by the Minnesota Lynx.
She finished her rookie season playing in 21 games averaging 3.8 ppg and shooting 42.2% from 3. The next season, Herbert-Harrigan signed for Turkish basketball Team Kayseri Basketbol before singing in London this year.
Herbert-Harrington led the Lions this season with 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, her points tally ranking second in the WBBL. The Riders will have their work cut out to slow her offence down.
Where to watch
The game is live on Sky Sports and on their youtube channel, starting at 1:15 pm. It will take place before the BBL Playoff final, also between the Lions and Riders.