Leicester Riders got their first win of the season by dismissing Surrey Scorchers 86-67 at Surrey Sports Park on Saturday night.
A strong third quarter from the Riders where they outscored Surrey 29-18, thanks to deadeye shooting and disciplined defence ultimately got their job done.
The win also extended the Riders’ unbeaten run over the Scorchers to 35 games, dating back to 20 January 2013.
On his BBL debut, Derryck Thornton led the Riders with 20 points and five assists. Great Britain international Patrick Whelan added 17.
“Very happy with our overall showing tonight,” Riders coach Rob Paternostro said. “Adding Derryck (Thornton) to the line-up was a big boost for us and he showed a lot of promise today.
“We were solid at both ends and I thought our guys did a great job especially of limiting Surrey inside. Really happy that we able to get a win.”
Jalen Ray led the Scorchers with 13 points.
The hosts came racing out the blocks as South Sudan international Padiet Wang scored after just nine seconds. However, undeterred Leicester responded with a 9-0 run that forced coach Gardner into a quick timeout.
A highly vocal Gardner demanded his team show intensity at both ends of the floor. And despite getting into early team fouls, Surrey chipped away at Riders’ double-digit lead with patient defence and high-octane offence.
A basket from Kyle Carey reduced the gap to 17-12, and the full-house inside Surrey Sports Park were treated to Wang flying out of nowhere to hammer home following the miss from Carey.
Despite momentum towards the end of the first being with the hosts, Leicester – shooting 50% from the field – led 24-16 heading into the second.
Despite the deficit, Surrey were determined to carry on where they left off at the end of the first and thanks to Boban Jacdonmi, who fought hard inside to score six straight points, they were able to condense the visitors’ lead to 28-24 with 5:50 of the second left.
Thornton, playing his first game for the Riders, scored freely in the second, on his way to 16 first-half points. But Jacdonmi’s eight points in the quarter kept it interesting at the half, with Riders leading by seven.
Gradually as the third quarter ticked by, the Riders gained their double-digit cushion back thanks to an elbow jumper from Whelan.
And it was Whelan, who had been quiet by his high standards, who drained back-to-back threes to quieten the loud Scorchers faithful and give the visitors a 71-53 advantage after three.
And another three from Whelan to start the fourth quarter saw the lead grow further to 21 points and despite a bright spell from the Scorchers mid-way through, Riders were able to keep their unbeaten run against the Scorchers ticking.