Leeds Force ended a nightmarish BBL season with a 32nd loss of the campaign on Sunday night, suffering a 102-79 defeat against league champions Leicester Riders.
A youthful Riders squad bolted from the gates with a flurry of early baskets, showing no signs of their inexperience as Danny Nelson’s Force struggled to keep up with Leicester’s relentless early pace.
Undeterred, Leeds leaned on dynamic duo Gazmend Sinani and Mo Williams to supply the goods and spark a comeback – the former battling hard to cut the deficit to keep Force in the contest as the first period ended.
Both sides upped the tempo and exchanged salvos in a surprisingly gripping contest, with Leeds increasingly desperate to snatch a victory in what could be the West Yorkshire squad’s final game with its BBL future in doubt.
Taking inspiration from their title-winning peers, the clinical Riders boosted their lead to double-digits as Leeds once again wilted under pressure.
The Riders sensed an opportunity to pull clear and showed off the killer instinct that sees them in top spot, carving Leeds’ defence apart and storming clear at half-time with Harrison Gamble’s buzzer-beating three only adding to Force’s misery.
An equally frenetic opening to the second half saw Leicester continue their devastating pace, refusing to take their foot off the gas pedal as Josh Ward-Hibbert crashed to the rim and threw down a reverberating slam dunk.
Riders continued to inflict more pain in the form of three-pointers – Gamble and Ward-Hibbert pouring in triples at a frightening rate to leave the vulnerable Force helpless and at the mercy of their illustrious counterparts.
An improbable treble from Lithuanian guard Vytautas Kamarunas eventually halted Riders’ offensive purple patch and enlivened a frustrated home crowd as Leeds looked to restore some pride with the end of their campaign in sight.
Kamarunas’ magnificent treble as the clock ticked down typified a season in which Leeds showed glimpses of their potential, but ultimately failed to deliver, as Force suffered a 32nd and final defeat.