Leicester Riders crushed London City Royals 93-61 to complete a three-peat of BBL Playoff titles.

The second half at The 02 became a procession for Rob Paternostro’s men who salvaged a prize from an otherwise disappointing campaign.

And in some style, battering the British Basketball League rookies at both ends of the floor with Tim Williams, the final’s MVP, concluding a superlative post-season by collecting 20 points and ten rebounds but with others contributing significantly.

Season over. Celebrations, at the last.

“I am massively proud of the guys and what we’ve been through this year,” triumphant captain Andy Thomson said after picking up the seventh playoff win of his career.

“The ups and downs and injuries happen. But we stick together and it’s nice to finish off the season with another win.

“We have been written off throughout the season.People saying we’re going to fall off the top – but it just shows that when we put on our A-Game out there no one can beat us.”

A 10-1 run capped by a three-pointer from Josh Ward-Hibbert pushed Leicester 26-15 in front early in the second period.

It took a while for the Royals to warm up. Matthew Bryan-Amaning applied heat in a 13-4 retort and although the BBL Trophy victors clung on, a long-range banker from JR Holder fell on the half-time buzzer and extended the Riders advantage to 44-36.

Leicester’s bench were immense (MAP)

It felt potentially pivotal. So it proved. Under-achievers for much of the season, bedevilled by the uneasy compromises made to recruit for what proved to be an underwhelming European challenge, the live possibility that the dominant club of recent seasons could end this campaign empty-ended was swept away in a six-minute blitz that proved irresistible.

London City missed the poise and menace of Wes Washpun whose injured groin restrained him to the sidelines. But his colleagues were pushed back on their heels by formidable defence which was converted, ruthlessly, into offensive execution.

In every sense. “We’ve been locked in defensively for the past month,” Paternostro acknowledged. To their credit.

Strangled and grasping for breath when Jamell Anderson’s three concluded a devastating 22-4 run which sent Leicester 66-42 clear with 2:45 left in the period, a 15,000 crowd were viewing inevitability.

The Royals were quite un-regal outside the paint, making just four of their 24 three-point attempts with their guards combining for 6-29 from the field.

Ahead 71-46 entering the last quarter, Leicester could consolidate, then savour. Conner Washington had toiled with his shot but excelled elsewhere but even he burnished his showing with a three that continued to accentuate the margin.

The Riders have until the end of June to decide whether they want to re-enter European competition. Meetings with sponsors will first be held before they opt to travel or stick. It would surely pre-empt the construction of a very different roster.

The outgoing collective has struggled at times, for motivation and for cohesion, but they saved a best for last. Ultimately, Jay Williams’ men delivered on their ambition to contend in their debut campaign but not here, as Leicester became only the fourth team to secure three consecutive BBL Playoff titles after Newcastle Eagles plus long-defunct Worthing Bears and Kingston Kings, doing so with a record margin of victory.

“This one feels tremendous,” Paternostro confessed. “Everyone knows how long our season has been and how many games we have played – it’s been a real grind.”

Williams, who shot 10-12, was immense with JR Holder adding 17 points, and 26 from the bench proving so very valuable.

Bryan-Amaning led the vanquished Royals with 19 points with Orlan Jackman adding 15 points and ten rebounds. All in vain, but with much to enjoy from the rejuvenation of professional basketball in south London.

“We played hard, we just didn’t play smart,” Jackman declared. “The Riders exploited that, built a lead and never looked back.”


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