The Leicester Riders ended their league season in style as they stormed Newcastle Eagles 116-84 on Saturday.
Going into the final championship game of the season, Leicester Riders were trailing behind the leaders of the ladder Newcastle Eagles by two losses, but with a solid second place title in the bag for the Riders the team had nothing to lose as they stepped onto the court to face their arch rivals once again.
Having lost to Worcester Wolves the previous day, the Leicester players were looking to finish the season on a high, and on a high they did.
The crowd filled the Sir David Wallace Sports Arena, plastered in red and black as the Riders fans took to the stands, ready as the lights dimmed and the players ran on one by one. The tip off was won by Leicester Riders who remained in possession for the first shot of the game, and Rashad Hassan finding the inside with assists by Washington as they took a quick 22-8 advantage. After a time out was called by Newcastle Eagles the players came out firing as they made 13 of the following 14 points, closing in on the Riders’ advantage as the score stood 28-23 after the first quarter.
Possession was rallied between both teams as Newcastle Eagles’ Drew Lasker pressurised Leicester Riders point guards who defended well, Rashad Hassan taking interceptions and rebounds to tie the game at 46 when the Eagles called for another time out. Tyler Bernardini hit his second triple in quick succession, followed by Hassan taking the inside making rebound tips to gain a Riders lead of 60-50 as the half time buzzer sounded.
Going into the second half of the game the Riders were ahead by 10 points, an advantage that only grew, not looking back as they sped ahead of the Eagles with a 20 point advantage within the final quarter. The Newcastle Eagles’ youngest player, Eddie Matthew, was brought onto the court, and within a few minutes he proved his worth as his light footwork and nifty ball play darted him past the Riders’ defence and up to the basket which received a roar from the away crowd.
With 2.5 seconds left on the clock a baseline throw-in was given to Leicester Riders, their final opportunity to make an impact upon the score board. The ball was quickly passed to Connor Washington who dribbled up to the three-point arc and threw for a successful three point finisher to the last league game of the 2014/2015 season. Connor Washington was awarded MVP for his triple-double along with his 17 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
“For us it was a nice way to end off the regular season. The team have been so fun to coach, not only are they good talented players, but they work hard when they’re together” said Rob Paternostro, Leicester Riders’ Head Coach.
The Newcastle champions were slightly shorthanded as they rested several of their best performers ahead of the play-offs, but it still counted as their biggest loss in more than a decade. Both teams look ahead to the start of the Play-offs, which commences next Friday 24th April, Leicester Riders facing Sheffield Sharks at Loughborough University.