RIDERS BLOW PLYMOUTH APART
- Updated: March 19, 2017
Leicester Riders retained the BBL Trophy with a 91-58 demolition of Plymouth Raiders at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
By late in the second period, the Devon outfit’s challenge had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Long before the end, they were done and dusted.
Rob Paternostro’s men – completing the first leg of what they hope will be a domestic treble – savagely tore their rivals from the foundations upwards during a 17-0 run that began midway through the first period.
But the tone, even in the opening exchanges, had already been set. Plymouth couldn’t score, couldn’t defend. Would not threaten.
The Riders went on an unstoppable roll and, a brief second quarter revival apart, never hit the slightest bump in the road.
At the outset, it took Plymouth almost four minutes to score and by then, they trailed 8-0. Taylor King – the final’s Most Valuable Player with 20 points and ten rebounds – was all energy and when Connor Washington came off the bench to inject his own brand of power, the ignition was truly pushed.
Down 31-9 after being held without a field goal for 5:36, the Raiders turned to Daryl Corletto and he began and ended a spell of 12 unanswered points which briefly gave Johnny White’s men hope. It was quickly and ruthlessly snuffed out – and with foul trouble adding to their malaise – the holders capitalised to constrain the strugglers to the lowest-ever offensive tally in a half of a Trophy final.
“We had two weeks to prepare,” said King. “We watched a tonne of film and it showed. We got stops then we went the other way.”
Ahead 47-26 at the break, another 14-3 tear in the third period was punctuated by a dunk from Drew Sullivan and it removed any doubts. Plymouth’s offense, usually their crutch, disappeared. At one point, Corletto was shooting 6-13 and the remainder of his team-mates 5-26.
It got no better. The Australian guard, who has declared his intention to play for Scotland in next year’s Commonwealth Games, ended with 20 points but he was a lone beacon.
Eventually Leicester accelerated as much as 86-46 clear with 3:17 left en route to a 16th consecutive win. The only positive for Plymouth was that it was soon to be over. A sarcastic cheer rang from their small group of fans when they broke through the half-century barrier but for every move they made, there was an educated counter – and then a counter-attack from the league champions-elect.
“We wanted to take them out of their rhythm,” Paternostro conceded. “When they run their stuff, they can get into it. But we also wanted to throw our bench at them. They brought 37 points and I thought Drew Sullivan, Andy Thomson, Eric Robertson and Connor Washington, those guys were as good as anybody on the court.
“It’s challenging when you put together a team like this because you don’t know where the minutes will go. But while it was Taylor’s day here, next week, it might be somebody else.”
Shooting just 27% and completely over-powered, the road home for Plymouth, and their players, will seem long and painful.
“That was a bit of a masterclass by Leicester,” said White, who admits his side need to go back to the drawing board amid their current slump. “They’re an amazing team and it was such an amazing effort by them.
“It was a shame I had to watch that from the other side of the bench. This is such a make or miss game but when you come up with 72 shots to 68 and you just cannot buy one … that just hurts.”
For the Riders, with the largest margin of victory ever recorded in a Trophy final and with a 52-31 rebounding advantage, the journey to glory this season is only just beginning.
With ten games left of the league campaign, and with a huge lead over Newcastle, Part 2 of the mission is within reach.
“But it’s a long way to go with a pretty tough schedule,” Paternostro added. “But what I like about this group is they don’t get too far ahead of themselves. They just play. We haven’t lost since early December and the guys feel confident even when they’re not playing well.”
Suns shine in WBBL Trophy final
Earlier, Sevenoaks Suns won the WBBL Trophy final with an 82-67 victory over the Riders women.
Catt Carr had a game-high 24 points for the Suns who pulled away with a 12-0 run late in the third period en route to a first-ever major prize.
“We played our game – knew we had to run in transition – that’s a really strong part of our game,” said Carr.
“A lot of times we are undersized so we have to hit the boards hard and we struggled with that at the beginning. Once we settled, we started playing off our defence, and when we can get easy buckets that helps at both ends.”
The Midlands outfit made a strong start with Alex Smith netting a triple in the middle of an 11-4 opening in the first three minutes.
However, the Suns answered and took their first lead on the back of a 9-0 run and although Harriet Swindells tied the game at 25 early in the second period, the Suns quickly moved into an eight point lead.
Erika Livermore, who paced Leicester with 19, was kept to a solitary point after her side had trailed 44-41 at half-time.
And with game MVP Anne Pedersen scoring 21, the Suns blazed their way to victory in spite of a brief Riders rally.
Main pic: Mansoor Ahmed