Thrilling overtime win puts Riders top of table
Leicester Riders moved top of the BBL Championship as they matched a club-record seven consecutive wins to start a top-flight season.
But the Jelson Homes DMU-backed Riders were precariously close to losing their undefeated run in a dramatic and thrilling game at John Sandford Sports Centre on Saturday night.
Cheshire Jets had looked odds-on for a shock upset with four minutes to play, before Riders rallied to force overtime and went on to win 79-75 in the extra five minutes.
With a 7-0 record, Riders have matched the Gene Waldron-inspired 1984-85 squad's mark as the best start to a league campaign in the top division in the club's 45-year history.
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However, it needed a late Zaire Taylor basket and some of their trademark intense defence for Riders to preserve that record as Leicester fought hard to force overtime.
Their energy-sapping schedule of four games in seven days, coupled with the emotional high of winning in Newcastle for the first time in 15 years on Friday night, combined to ensure a three-point horror show for the Riders.
One long-range effort after another clanged off the ring.
The Jets showed their intentions right from the tip-off, with former Rider Shawn Myers hitting two three-pointers as the visitors opened up with a 12-1 lead.
Jamell Anderson entered the game and injected some life into the Riders at both ends of the floor, scoring six points as Leicester cut the gap to 19-16 late in the first quarter.
Triples from Jorge Calvo and Taylor had Riders on level terms in the second period and Drew Sullivan ensured that they finally had their noses in front just before half-time.
Although Riders were 41-37 ahead at the break, the visitors started the second half the stronger.
Myers and player-coach Chez Marks hit consecutive long-range efforts as the Jets threatened to pull away and, with just three-and-a-half minutes to go, Cheshire were 67-60 in front.
At that stage, Leicester had made just one three-pointer in 18 attempts since early in the second quarter, but suddenly Pavol Losonsky and Taylor both connected from behind the arc to make it a one-point game.
With 19 seconds remaining and Riders trailing by two points, Taylor turned the ball over. The Riders guard drove to the basket, drew a foul from Haskins and converted a score to tie the game at 69-69.
With both teams over the foul limit, overtime was largely about free-throw shooting and Sullivan and Taylor helped Leicester into a 76-71 lead.
Cheshire were desperately trying to get the ball to Chez Marks to utilise his scoring prowess, but Calvo was all over him, denying him possession. When Sullivan stretched Riders' lead to five points with two more free throws with 10 seconds remaining, Leicester had done enough to finally see off the Jets.
Riders were far from their best and could easily have lost, but the character and desire they showed by refusing to accept defeat, is exactly the reason they are top of the league.
Riders 79: Losonsky 19, Taylor 18, Sullivan 13, Anderson 8, Couisnard 7, Calvo 5, Williams 3, Washington 3, Lamble 3, Hopkins.
Jets 75: Marks 22, Myers 19, Haskins 13, Bland 12, Moore 9, Brandreth, Gillard, Pearce.