The Leicester Riders beat the Sheffield Sharks by a final score of 80-71 Friday night, but will have to wait to get their hands on the league trophy as Newcastle beat Glasgow by 17 points.
The Sheffield Sharks entered the game in Leicester winless in two outings against them this season and in poor recent form as they need to put some performances together in the run in to the postseason.
Scoring was at a bit of a premium throughout the game and this tone was set in the the first quarter with just 8 points being scored in the first 4 minutes of basketball. The Riders looked comfortable in possession especially in the paint as their best shooting came from the paint, but it was the Sharks who lead at the end of one by a score of 22-20.
The Riders used their bench depth and ability to go from defence to offence rapidly. The best play of the first was a patient piece of team basketball from the Riders in which they rapidly rotated the ball around the perimeter looking for their shot which was finished by Washington at the elbow as he got free of a defender. A tremendous display of textbook Riders basketball manufacturing opportunities to get the score.
The second started in a more frantic fashion Sullivan scoring the first 4 points of the quarter to put the Riders in front. The Riders were wasteful early on, but their ferocious defending prevented the Sharks from capitalising. The Sharks got themselves into foul trouble putting the Riders in the bonus, which was caused by the depth and aggression of the home side.
The opening half was a relatively low scoring with neither side getting properly into a scoring pattern. The Riders were attrocious from 3 points making just one of 12 efforts in the half, but their ball movement inside was causing the Sharks problems. The Riders passing and movement was putting the Sharks in foul trouble, and this had the Sharks rotating their players out more frequently than they would probably have wanted to. The Riders lead at the half 36-32.
The third quarter opened with a made three by King for the Riders which was immediately met with a three from Rembert and a three from Walker for the Riders. The two Riders bigs
The Riders raced into a 9 point lead making two of three from beyond the arc, the bigs King and Walker making the difference from outside. Sheffield, sensing the game getting away from them started moving to a full court press to try and force misses and turnovers. It worked initially as the lead was brought down to four points for just a moment before Hampton made the third three for the Riders of the quarter to extend the lead to 7. The Riders took the 7 point lead into the final period of play.
The Fourth quarter played out like the previous three quarters, both sides were matching pace on shooting with the Sharks creeping back into the game before back to back threes for Leicester blew the doors off the game and gave the Riders the game. The scoreline looks more comfortable than it ever was for the Riders. The Sharks battled for every ball and kept pace with the Riders for the whole 40 minutes, never giving the home side an inch.
The Riders were able to kick on and get the win down the stretch as their shooters found their range, converting turnovers into points and scoring second chance points.
Pierre Hampton was the standout player of the game with 17 points and 7 rebounds for the Riders. The Sharks player of the game was Rembert who scored 21 points and contributed 6 rebounds. Taylor King also had a big night scoring a double-double with 13 points including a huge three that kicked off the Riders’ scoring from distance.
Next up for the Riders is the Plymouth Raiders, next Friday night at home where a win will clinch the title. The Sharks travel to Manchester on Sunday for what they will expect to be an easy victory to kick start some form going into the post season.