Basketball: Leicester Riders on course for first-ever title
Leicester Riders will head into their title showdown with Newcastle Eagles on Wednesday night with a massive six-point advantage over their rivals in the race for the Championship.
Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders are in the commanding position after a double-winning weekend over two sides who have both just beaten Newcastle in the last two weeks.
While the Riders were beating Surrey and Plymouth, the Eagles lost a fourth consecutive home game to the Raiders on Friday to give Leicester some breathing space at the top.
Riders' 78-66 victory over Plymouth yesterday showed everything about their refusal to be beaten no matter what obstacle is thrown at them.
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Already without leading scorer Pavol Losonsky through a back injury, they were also without point guard Zaire Taylor, who injured his thigh in Surrey on Saturday night.
But an immense performance from Jay Couisnard, who had 34 points and 10 rebounds, coupled with the trademark tenacious defence from the whole squad, meant it mattered little.
Riders started with plenty of energy, despite playing the evening before, and Couisnard and Jamell Anderson sparked them to a run of eight straight points to lead 13-5 after only three minutes.
But Plymouth responded with 11 unanswered points to take the lead.
Couisnard was in the zone at that point and the Raiders had no way of stopping them. He hit an amazing second effort three-pointer and then netted another one on the first-quarter buzzer to score all but three of the points scored in the last four minutes.
He scored again early in the second period as Riders lead opened out to 13 points. At that stage, Couisnard had outscored the Raiders on his own.
Raiders cut the lead to 33-27 early in the second period and they soon had it down to three.
Leading by five at the start of the second half, Riders were a little slow out of the blocks and the Raiders hit 10 of the first 12 points in the third quarter to lead 50-45.
Yorick Williams hit a three-pointer late in the third and Jorge Calvo another early in the fourth as Riders kept Plymouth scoreless for seven minutes to open a 61-54 advantage with seven minutes to go.
Plymouth did cut the gap to five, but Couisnard got a big dunk and Calvo hit another one from long range and the Riders' lead was back into double-figures.
From there, they sealed the game from the free-throw line, sealing the league title could effectively come on Wednesday night. Whatever the result it won't mathematically be won in midweek, but after this weekend, Riders are well on the way to a first-ever BBL Championship crown.
Riders: Couisnard 34, Rowe 12, Calvo 10, Sullivan 7, Anderson 6, Washington 4, Williams 3, Lamble 2, Hitchman, McSwiggan.
Raiders: Barnett 15, Schneck 15, O'Reilly 13, Williams 12, Schreiber 6, Lasker 5