The Leicester Riders are the 2016/17 BBL Playoff champions following a dominant win over a poor Newcastle Eagles by a score of 84-63. The Riders dominated the game from the opening minute and were well worth their win, in a scoreline that flattered the Eagles, who did not turn up.
The Leicester Riders started the game hot, rushing out to a 13-4 lead within the first 3 and a half minutes, with back to back three point shots and then 7 points from Pierre Hampton whose attacks to the basket were unstoppable. The Eagles were forced into an early timeout, to cope with the offensive onslaught they were experiencing from the Riders. Coming out of the timeout Parks broke Bernardini’s ankles to set up a Scott Martin slam dunk which brought the capacity crowd to its feet, but that would be the highlight of the quarter for the Eagles. The Riders were unstoppable in the first quarter finishing with a 29-11 lead over the Eagles who started the game cold.
The second quarter was much of the same as the first with the Riders dominant on both ends of the floor as they took their lead up to 20 with a Hampton basket. He continued his excellent start making tough shots under the basket look easy. Scott Martin lead the way for the Eagles with 9 first half points, including a three-pointer late in the half to get the gap briefly to beneath 20 points. Andrew Thompson was alongside Hampton with 11 points for the Riders in a big first half where the big man put on a clinic of inside scoring. The first half was a high-paced physical encounter, with both sides giving everything they had to get the points on the board. The Riders headed in at half-time with a 47-27 lead.
Newcastle needed to come out of the break strong and get some stops on the defensive end, but the link up play of Clark and Walker would send them into a timeout with 6 minutes to go down 58-31, before Fletcher drained a 3 pointers and Lasker stole the ball and laid it in quickly to take the lead down to 22. Hampton started the second half just like he finished the first, by getting offensive rebounds and making easy layups under the basket.
The Riders held their advantage throughout the third quarter of play, as they relentlessly scored baskets, ending the game as a contest and playing excellent basketball. The Riders were making the game look easy as a dejected Newcastle gave the riders too much space in the paint, and the exciting Connor Washington took full advantage of this with a gorgeous running layup towards the end of the quarter.
League MVP Fletcher was kept quiet all game by the Riders defence, limiting to just 12 points in the first three-quarters of play, he would finish on 16 points. The Riders began to take their time on possessions with excellent ball movement, this was seen late in the third with a made three from Bernardini after every Rider had handled the ball in a great passage of team basketball that was started by a hustle play from Washington.
The fourth quarter started with the Riders enjoying a 28 point lead over the Eagles. The Riders came out and scored 3 quick points before a long stoppage as the overhead scoreboard stopped working, which just extended the miserable evening for the Eagles. Robertson had a sure fire dunk denied hard by Lasker, but King was on hand a possession later to extend the Eagles lead to 33 points with a putback layup after an offensive rebound. Rahmon Fletcher dragged the Eagles over the 50 point threshold but the game had long since ended as a contest, with both sides now scoring uncontested baskets with five minutes to go in the game.
With little over a minute left the Riders made a five man substitution which drew a standing ovation from the always excellent and vocal Riders fans behind the bench. The Eagles drew closer in the final minutes to make the scoreline a little more respectable, but there was nothing more to it than that. The Leicester Riders were worthy winners today as they dominated the Newcastle Eagles from start to finish.
Pierre Hampton took home with him the game MVP award after a stunning night with 14 points and 14 rebounds in an individual performance just as dominant as his Riders’.