Brimming with the confidence that only a Cup Final win can provide, Leicester Riders resume the defence of their BBL Championship crown on Saturday night, with a visit to the John Sandford Centre of the 11-6 London Lions.
The Riders left in late in front of a packed crowd at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena to retain the BBL Cup, with opponents Newcastle Eagles ahead for a large proportion of the contest. A stunning 11 points in a row from the talismanic Drew Sullivan inspired Leicester, who would win through Jorge Calvo’s clutch three and Jay Cousinard’s steady nerve at the foul line – accompanied by trademark Riders defence.
What awaits Riders on Saturday, as Championship basketball resumes for a club that won three trophies last season, is a Lions team that haven’t played since January 3, where they beat Glasgow 81-65 at the Copper Box Arena.
“I’ve been very impressed with the Lions this season,” said head coach Rob Paternostro, ahead of the meeting with the team formerly of Milton Keynes.
“Their athleticism and their depth has been very important to their success. They are a team that has been able to play well for long periods. Last time we played them, we were able to come out with a victory, but we understand that this will be a very tough game.”
This season, the Lions have been one of the most consistent teams shooting from free-throws, shooting 77.6% from the line, whilst guard Rod Brown has been in fine form in his first full season in London.
“They are a team that attacks the basket and do a really good job of getting out on transition,” added Paternostro.
“Rod Brown, the veteran guard that they have, has been very good this season. Last season, he arrived half-way through, but being there for the full year this season I think that London have benefitted from having a guy like him running the show.”
Saturday evening will see Leicester able to call upon the talents of their newest acquisition; American guard Mike Brown, who arrived in the East Midlands shortly before the Riders’ double-overtime win over Sheffield Sharks.
The 6-foot guard out of the University of Albany in New York, was ineligible for the Riders’ BBL Cup Final against Newcastle Eagles, having registered too late to feature. However, Black is in line to be included in the Riders’ side this weekend, following a full week of practice with his new team-mates.
“Mike has been with us now for just over a week and this week of practice will be very important for him,” commented the Riders head coach.
“He will be able to get a feel for the guys and start to understand the nuances of what we do. With a double-header weekend on the way, it’s always nice to have another player to add to the mix.”