RIDERS READY TO PROFIT FROM TITLE LEAD

Tyler Bernardini joined the Leicester Riders to win silverware.

It took a little while but now he’s ready to reap the rewards of playing for one of the BBL’s top clubs.

After coming up empty-handed in his first season, Bernardini finally got his hands on some silverware last month when his side dethroned the Newcastle Eagles and took home the BBL Trophy.

The way things are going for them at the moment, the Riders could well be adding another winner’s medal or two before the season is over.

Which, even in a season when the local public are distracted by another unexpected title chase, is great news for the Californian-born guard.

“I’m one of those guys who just loves to win,” he said.

“For me it’s all about winning and that’s what we’ve been able to do this year, so it’s awesome.”

The next prize on offer is in the Championship where one week ago the Riders were ten points behind league-leading Newcastle.

Just under a week from now they could be top.

It’s a remarkable turnaround made possible not only by the Riders winning their games in hand but also thanks to a huge win up on Tyneside against the Eagles last weekend.

Having won their previous two games against Newcastle, Bernardini revealed confidence was very high going into that game.

“For us, we expected to win that,” he said. “I’m happy we were able to execute the game-plan down the stretch.

“Before we’ve played them from ahead, but this time we were behind the whole game. “

The turning point was in the second half as the Riders outscored the home side 50-26, to come away with an 80-64 victory.

“We switched up the defence, started pressing a little bit with a full-court press and I just think we were able to get to them a little bit,” revealed Bernardini.

“Our conditioning is really good from a team perspective and we were able to play forty minutes really hard and wear them down.”

But all the hard work and momentum from the win over the Eagles almost went to waste the following evening against the London Lions.

The Riders squandered a double-digit lead and then late on needed two offensive rebounds on a possession before Neil Watson was able to sink a game-winning three-pointer.

“It was a close and a really funny game,” said Bernardini.

“I was in foul trouble the whole second half and it was tough to get a rhythm.

“When I came out at one point we were up 13 points and it killed me sitting there on the bench watching the lead go away and feeling helpless because I put myself in a bad position with the fouls.

“To lose a lead like that is never easy and it put a bit of pressure on us as we had to figure a way to stop the bleeding, but at the end of the day Neil made an unbelievable shot with a lot of pressure on him.

“It was a big-time shot.”

He added, “For me at the end it was a case of I’ve got to do whatever I can to make this happen and that was getting an offensive rebound, giving us an extra possession and keeping the game alive.”

There’s still time for more twists and turns in the title race and Bernardini knows his side have a lot more work to do if they want to finish on top.

But for the moment he knows his side has one factor in their favour.

“We control our own destiny now,” explained Bernardini.

“We do not have to hope that someone goes up and beats Newcastle, we can just focus on ourselves.

“To go up [to Newcastle] and take the season series and be in control of our own destiny, that’s a real positive.

“We’ve just got to keep it going and do whatever we can to keep moving in the right direction and bring home as many trophies as possible.”

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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