Leicester Riders ended the season in spectacular style by lifting the BBL play-off trophy with a 78-75 win over London Lions in a quite exhilarating final at The 02 Arena. The Riders capped a memorable campaign off in front a British Basketball League record crowd of 15,824, with an incredible atmosphere inside the arena. The showpiece event was also enjoyed by many more watching live on Sky Sports.
Geno Crandall was named MVP after he put in yet another world class display and was ultimately the difference on a game that went down to the wire. The Lions star scored 23 points, made five assists and contributed seven rebounds in an outstanding individual display at The 02 Arena.
The crowd at The 02 Arena were treated to a thriller that burst into life right from the tip off, as both sides traded early baskets in a high scoring opening quarter. 52 points were scored between the sides, but the opening exchanges fell in the Lions favour with them holding a six point lead after the opening ten minutes.
The incredible pace of the game didn’t let up with both sides showing their offensive qualities at the beginning of the second quarter. The Riders put their stamp on the contest with an impressive display where they overturned their early deficit to lead by seven points at the interval.
Isiah Reese put in a quite exceptional display for the Lions in the first half top scoring for the Lions with 19 points, meanwhile it came as no surprise to the 15,824 crowd that Geno Crandall was once again on top form for the Riders netting ten points of his own. The pair continued.
The Reese vs Crandall contest became a brilliant subplot to thel final, as the pair continued to show their class throughout. The Lions had their fans on their feet at the beginning of third quarter, as they clawed their way back to lead the game by eight heading into a tense final quarter.
An electric atmosphere in the arena was the perfect backdrop for the season defining final ten minutes. The Riders turned on the heat and turned the game on its head, regaining the lead as they came flying out the traps at the beginning of the fourth.
The BBL Championship holders extended their lead to five as the game entered the final five minutes to the delight of their vocal support inside the arena. But the Lions roared back to bring the game back to within a solitary point with under three minutes on the clock.
Ultimately, it would be Crandall who had the last word as his basket inside the final minute sealed the victory for the Riders in a pulsating match that will go down as one the great play-off finals. Both sides played their part in a fantastic occasion that showed the very best of British Basketball.
Winning Head Coach, Rob Paternostro was delighted to end the campaign by lifting the coveted play-off trophy and was thrilled to see their side rise to the challenge in front a capacity crowd in the capital. He said: “What a game!
“All nine players who played today made their contribution, like they have done all season, I’m so proud of the guys. I told them at the start of the season they’d look back and tell their kids about this team, it truly is a really special group in the locker room. Well I think they (London Lions) are the best team outside of us, so it is very satisfying, both teams went at it hard and it was an incredible finish to the game.”
MVP Geno Crandall said: “It must’ve been a great game to watch, we were fortunate to play our game well at the end of the game.
“We’ve had different guys step up at different times and my time came at the end of the game. I was able to get some really good looks, those shots that didn’t go in earlier, did go in later.
“We got in a lot of good positions and thankfully I was able to do my thing when it mattered most. I think as the game goes on the playbook gets a little shorter, make a few less passes and get the ball in your best players hands.”
As the curtain closed on a groundbreaking campaign for the British Basketball League, Chief Operating Officer, Andy Webb, said: “I can’t think of a greater occasion to conclude what has been a historic and incredible year for the British Basketball League. I’d like to congratulate Leicester on coming away victorious this afternoon, it was a fantastic match between two sides who left everything out on the court.
“To round off the campaign with a record attendance of over 16,500 is just remarkable and highlights how the sport is continuing to thrive here in the U.K. I’d like to thank all of the wonderful fans young and old who turned out at The 02 Arena this afternoon, the atmosphere was electric and I hope you enjoyed the finals just as much as we did. We can’t wait to see you filling arenas across the U.K. again next season.
“It's been a brilliant season, with record attendances across the league, our clubs continuing to achieve great things on and off the court and of course the investment deal with 777 partners at the back end of last year. I’d like to thank everyone across the league for their extraordinary hard work this season, we can’t wait to see the league continue to thrive when the 22/23 campaign gets underway!”