Leicester Mercury

...and his thoughts on semi-final loss

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LEICESTER Riders suffered their first defeat in the BBL Play-offs in five years when they went down to the Newcastle Eagles in the semifinals, bringing to an end a season that delivered much for the club in adverse circumstan­ces.

The Eagles will now play London Lions in the final of both the BBL and WBBL Play-offs at the Morningsid­e Arena tomorrow afternoon.

Lions’ men finally wore down Plymouth Raiders on Thursday night, overcoming a 12-point first leg deficit to win 100-80 and progress to the final.

The Eagles were led by two-time MVP Rahmon Fletcher who scored an extraordin­ary 61 points against the Riders over the two legs and dished out 16 assists.

Riders simply had no answer to Fletcher, who also hit eight threepoint­ers, while the whole of the Riders team managed just nine as their long-range shooting dried up in both legs.

But Riders will reflect on a season that looked doubtful to start at one stage, and tipped-off only in November, but still brought their fifth BBL Championsh­ip title.

Riders head coach Rob Paternostr­o was sanguine about the loss to the Eagles.

“It was a tough night for us – no question,” he said.

“But credit has to be given to Newcastle, they played really well in the second leg, and did it also in the first game.

“To get back like they did in the first leg after our hot start was impressive.

“Fletcher was outstandin­g in both games – scoring the ball, passing the ball – he is a real dynamic player.

“And his back court partner Cortez Edwards played really well after a bit of an off-night in the first leg.

“And with their big guy Justin Gordon, who can change a game quickly, you have three guys who are amongst the top ten in the BBL, or close.

“So, the talent is there, and they showed up on Thursday night. They made plays.

“You look at our game and our defence was not good enough early on, and gave up too many scores.

“But then if you look at how we came back, we went into half-time in a really good position.

“But then in the third quarter we could not get anything to drop.

“And when you look back at the losses this season we have had, it is generally the long-range shooting that let us down.

“We only made three of 24 from the three-point line on Thursday.

“I said before the game we had to make shots. We did not and they did.

“When you are in big games that is what it comes down to – making shots when it matters. It is part of basketball.

“I said to the guys after the game I loved working with them, and I really enjoyed every minute, because it was a real family atmosphere.

“I also told them how proud of them I was, and proud of what they delivered this season, for our club and for our fans.

“The fans may not have been in the building, but we felt their support all the way.”

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