Leeds Force’s BBL Trophy dreams came to a crushing end on Sunday, being blown away 104-59 against reigning BBL champions Leicester Riders as the holders began their Trophy defence in dominating fashion, writes Seb Gigner.
Determined to stage an upset against the champions, Leeds leapt out of the gates with a rapid seven-point spurt from American star Tavarion Nix and lethal long-range threat Eric Curth.
The disciplined Riders responded in perfect fashion, laying siege to the Force basket with a devastating trio of triples – enough to earn Leicester a lofty double-digit lead.
With the league leaders perhaps expecting the flustered Force to give in, Leeds instead valiantly clung to Leicester’s coat-tails throughout the opening 10 minutes. Nix’s stunning rejection of Rema Lascelles – brother of Newcastle United captain Jamaal – at the rim propelled Leeds to a strong first quarter finish.
Leicester mercilessly ramped up the tempo to begin a one-sided second period. Riders captain Tyler Bernardini lived up to his label as one of the league’s premier threats, leading Leicester’s charge by raining a spectacular seven trebles in quick succession.
On the ropes once more with Leicester protecting a 20-point advantage, Curth’s five-point salvo offered Leeds a lifeline, but a hammering TrayVonn Wright slam and Eric Robertson’s buzzer-beating three to end the half left Leicester well in the ascendancy heading into half-time.
An energetic third period saw Curth and Nix mount an early assault on the Leicester basket, only for the fiery Bernardini to continue his scintillating shooting streak into the second-half as Riders rode into the distance with an ever-extending lead.
Elusive force Tre Bennett’s sensational solo finish and the electric Curth’s sustained scoring kept Leeds motoring as the third quarter came to a close. As Bernardini’s momentum finally began to fade in the final quarter, Wright picked up the mantle late on with a trio of soaring slams – enough to lead Leicester over the line as the spirited Leeds crashed out at the first hurdle.