riders 568Leicester Riders coach Rob Paternostro admits that any thoughts of a procession to the British Basketball League title have been banished by their shock loss to Sheffield Sharks in the BBL Trophy final in Glasgow.

The league leaders, already with the BBL Cup secured this season, were upset 71-69 by the strugglers from Yorkshire whose American guard BJ Holmes was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for scoring 25 points, including two decisive free throws with eight seconds left which ultimately proved the difference.

With two defeats less than Newcastle Eagles, Paternostro’s men have the championship in their own hands. But he concedes that Sheffield’s unexpected success has underlined that nothing in certain.

“We’ve done a heck of a job this year of playing consistently,” he said. “That consistency is going to be tested over the last month with the amount of fixtures we have and the tough teams we have to play. The thing is that there are a lot of teams now who are better than they were at the beginning of the season. And you see that in the results. So it will be a hard stretch run for a lot of teams.”

The Emirates Arena was, in so many ways, a tale of two young coaches, trying to make their mark.

Atiba Lyons, in his first campaign of calling plays without the distraction of also playing, came up with the only plan available: to make good on being long shots to break Leicester’s ferocious zone.

That it worked was really down to Holmes, who hit four threes when one less would have seen Sharks come off second best. “That was the key for us, making us switch defences,” said Lyons.

Sheffield have much to fight for too over the next month, potentially even a re-match with Leicester in the play-offs if they can hold off the rival bids of Manchester, Durham and Cheshire to secure eighth spot.

With games in hand, their destiny is also their own. “This is a great accomplishment and achievement,” Lyons acknowledged. “But we’re in that place still fighting for the play-off spot. We gave to make sure we don’t get too complacent.”

That, for Leicester, will no longer be an issue. Newcastle, hampered by Joe Chapman’s injury, can still retain their crown if they win out but their schedule includes two meetings with their rivals which will still likely determine supremacy.

Paternostro will learn from this defeat, from how his team struggled inside and how, at times, they failed to make quick adjustments to break up the Sharks’ assault.

But, in the end, the Riders coach will shrug it off. “It just wasn’t our day,” he said.

“We didn’t have a flow offensively. We struggled with rhythm. But, still, we had the ball, in a tied game, with under a minute to go. That’s all you can ask for: the opportunity to win it. We didn’t. We turned it over.”

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