- National Teams
Leicester Riders rounded off their inaugural invitational pre-season tournament on Sunday with a 103-95 overtime victory over EuroChallenge side Okapi Aalstar at Loughborough University.
The reigning BBL Cup champions had led their Belgian opponents for most of the game before a late surge forced the Riders into having to tie the game and extend proceedings.
New signing Tyler Bernardini produced an all-round display of 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists while the returning Pavol Losonsky also added 22 points for the Riders. Another new arrival, American Neil Watson (pictured), showed his threat from downtown with 4/5 3-pointers on his way to 16 points as well as six assists.
Okapi ran with a 7-man rotation with three of the their starters clocking over 40 minutes each and combining for 72 of their team’s points. The Belgian league runners-up suffered their second successive loss having been beaten 94-70 by Rio Natura Monbus on Saturday. Leicester also fell to a hard-fought 73-65 defeat against the Spanish outfit in the tournament opener on Friday.
In the final encounter yesterday, the home side made a strong start and opened up a double digit lead at half-time with Harrison Gamble and Levi Noel netting a flurry of triples to make it 52-41. The advantage peaked at 13 points at 67-54 in the third before Okapi launched their fightback.
A 5-0 close to the third quarter was followed by the opening seven points of the final period to bring themselves to within a single point. Leicester managed to keep the visitors at bay with Watson nailing a couple of huge 3-pointers with Okapi closing in.
With just over two minutes to go, Okapi took their first lead since the opening quarter. Losonsky twice regained the initiative for his side but it was left to captain Barry Lamble to save his side from defeat with a late basket after the Belgians had forged ahead with a three in the final minute.
Leicester seized control in the extra period with an 11-2 run on their way to an impressive 103-95 victory to finalise their preparations for this week’s start of the new BBL season.
Image credit: Zak Pinchin Media