The Manchester Giants fall short in the BBL Cup final as they lose to the Leicester Riders 83-69. 

The most anticipated game of Manchester’s season so far was sure to be a thriller and it did not disappoint as both teams were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance and thousands more watching at home. 

A patient opening possession from Manchester allowed them to draw first blood in this game as Tyrik Armstrong found Josh Steel in the corner for a deep two. The next offensive possession Steel cuts to the basket for a rim grazing dunk. Giants seemed to have the early lead in this one pulling away as far as 9 points in the opening quarter courtesy of a pair of Dan Clark threes and Geno Artison with a three of his own. Leicester kept their heads above water with makes from Loving, Walker and Patrick Whelan. Giants take the first quarter 20-15 in an impressive defensive quarter from Lloyd Gardner’s men. 

The riders inbound to kick off the second quarter which is met by the backboard and falls into the hands of Dan Clark on the defensive rebound. The Giants started to struggle offensively in the opening stages of the second quarter as the Riders managed to tie the game up 20 a piece. Dan Clark connects with his GB teammate Jamell Anderson on the full court pass for a layup, Riders replied with a make of their own to keep the scores level. Offensive struggles persisted for the Giants with only having scored 6 points in 6 minutes of second quarter play. Meanwhile, the Riders managed to more than double their own points tally. The Giants scored 8 points in the entire quarter. The quarter was personified via a Nelson-Henry midrange buzzer beater making the halftime score 28-45 to the Riders. 

The third quarter was a more promising start offensively for the Giants as Tyrik Armstrong showed off his range with a three pointer with the hopes of igniting the Giants once again to get them back into this game. After making the first, Tyrik Armstrong fancied a second three pointer after being given too much room on the perimeter as Manchester began to chip away at the Leicester lead. Further makes from Armstrong and Jamell Anderson kept the giants plugging away in this final as Jordan Whelan sinks another three off the dribble bringing the lead to single digits. Will Saunders ended up getting ejected from the game after two technical fouls against him.  A prolific scoring run from Manchester kept them in the race for the win here as points from Jordan Whelan, Francois Lewis and a Buzzer beater from Jack Hudson kept the lead in single digits as both teams head into the final quarter 51-60 with plenty of basketball to play. 

Leicester hit back to back midrange jumpers to start the fourth and final quarter. Both teams traded buckets as a pair of free throws from Jordan Whelan and a deep two from Tyrik Armstrong kept the Giants within reach. Manchester consistently went to the line in the fourth quarter to try and chip away at Leicester. Jamell Anderson, Josh Steel and Dan Clark are joining the team efforts with a three from Anderson and Steel then a thunderous two handed slam from the latter. The low scoring second quarter put the game beyond reach for Manchester. 

Tyrik had a standout performance tonight as he led scoring for the Giants with 18 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds on 54.5% from the field Geno Artison also had a very solid game finishing with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a pair of steals too. 

Head Coach Lloyd Gardner said‘’I’m disappointed anytime you make it through to a final you just can’t get over that hurdle you’re going to be disappointed but trying to take the positives for making it this far in a long time and remember the feeling for being here and we can get back to this level again’’.

The Giants will be looking to regroup in their next game as they face the Surrey Scorchers away at Surrey Sports Park on February 5th.

Words – Michael Blain

Photo – All Sports Photography